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Trump victory will make Brexit even more painful

The Iberian peninsular breaks away from the mainland and heads towards America before eventually returning to Europe, in The Stone Raft, a wonderful novel by José Saramago.

It feels today as if the United Kingdom will start a similar journey into dangerous waters when the decision to leave the EU is made irrevocable by signing Article 50. But the far coast is much less attractive with a protectionist Donald Trump in the White House.

While the political establishments in both the UK and the USA have miscalculated the anger of many electors the similarity of the Brexit and Presidential votes ends there. The consequences are very different.

As the Economist comments:

Brexit is a giant shock to Britain’s place in the world. It will sever old links and require new ones to be forged. As some of its keenest proponents concede, this transition will bring painful costs. Most of all it demands lots of good will and flexibility on all sides. In so far as Mr Trump’s win means a meaner, more fractious, more volatile global order, it raises those costs and shrinks that space for compromise and consensus essential for a smooth Brexit.

It seems to me that we now need, more than ever, to be a part of strong European Union and its trading bloc.

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.

1959 election marked the start Tories slow decline in Scotland

In 1959, as a junior reporter of only a few weeks, I had my first taste of covering a general election. In those days politicians used their right to free use of school halls for election meetings and even the rawest recruit to the paper had to report on them.

My abiding memory is that the Conservatives draped the speaker’s table with the Union flag and that because they were public meetings there was always at least one heckler in the hall. Candidates would do several meetings in a day.

I worked for the Leamington Morning News, the smallest daily paper in the UK. Only Conservative and Labour candidates were contesting the Warwick and Leamington seat.

John Hobson, later attorney general, was defending the seat which he had won two years before following Anthony Eden’s post-Suez resignation.

His Labour opponent William Wilson,went on to win a Coventry seat and earned his place in history piloting the Divorce Reform Act of 1969. That changed the grounds for divorce from matrimonial offences to the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage.

Two of my senior colleagues decided Hobson was not seeing how the other half lived and arranged to go with him to a council estate. They chose a house at random, knocked on the door.

It was not what they expected. There were thick fitted carpets and the tenant welcomed Hobson, opened a well-stocked cocktail cabinet and offered him a drink.

England was changing and the Conservatives won the election with an increased majority. Looking back, the most significant change in 1959 was that for the first time the Conservatives won fewer seats than Labour in Scotland.

This year the Conservatives are fighting to retain their last toe hold in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale: a 2% advantage for the SNP according to Lord Ashcroft’s latest poll but the margin for error means it is too close to call.

Labour is also facing wipe-out at the hands of the SNP.

If we count the change in Scottish politics from 1959, the evolution has taken 56 years.



Three controversial donors backed Ben Gummer’s Ipswich election win

Three controversial Conservative party donors helped finance Ben Gummer’s successful campaign to win Ipswich, 113 on the Tory target list, at the last election.

Between them the three donors contributed £35,000. Two of them Andrew J. Clark (£25,000) and Abdul-Majid Jafir (£5,000) are listed without an address in Mr Gummer’s entry on the Commons register of MP’s financial interests.

The third is listed as a company donation of £5,000 from IPGL Ltd, of London EC2, but is from the business of Michael Spencer, who has a home near Woodbridge. He was revealed this week as one of the people who had a private dinner with David Cameron. According to the BBC he has given the Conservatives £173,000 since June 2006.

Andrew J Cook has been linked today by Ipswich Spy with the Andrew J Cook, who according to the Daily Mail sucked David Cameron into a “sleaze row… over a decision to axe an £80million loan”.

The loan was to Sheffield Forgemasters steel works. Mr Cook runs another steel company and was said to be considering making a bid for Forgemasters. He has donated More than £650,000 to the Conservatives and gave Mr Cameron flights, travel and sponsorship worth £88,000.

Mr Jafir who, according to the Daily Mail, gave £250,000 to the Tory Party is said to be a executive director of Crescent Petroleum Group.

The paper said, “in records at Companies House he is listed as being ‘usually’ resident in the United Arab Emirates.” His spokesman told the paper he was ‘definitely on the electoral roll’, and that he lived between Britain and the UAE.”

Ipswich Spy which first revealed the donations earlier today, reports:

Mr Gummer insists, however, that anyone who knows him will know that any allegation that money donated to his campaign has, or would, ever alter his view or vote is barking up the wrong tree. He told Ipswich Spy “all those who gave money to my campaign were people I know and none of them tried to ask me for favours or policy.

I tend to believe that Mr Gummer has not been influenced, but I also suspect that donors were pointed toward him and Ipswich by Conservative headquarters because it was one of the seats they had to win in 2010 if they were to have any change of forming a government.

That is simply how party funding in elections work. Labour in Ipswich had £10,000 during the last parliament from the Prospect Union and both parties has a little short of £60,000 in their fighting funds.

Ipswich Spy suggests that it is unlikely that when Mr Gummer was a candidate “anyone would be spending money on him with an eye to the future”.

I feel the eye was on the importance of the seat but also that donors recognised, in Mr Gummer, someone who would follow his father into the higher reaches of the party. John Gummer had a far less smooth ride into his first seat.

Mr Gummer registered six sponsors shortly after the 2010 election. In addition to the three named above, there was Ransome’s Dock Ltd of Ispwich (£5,000), Anglia Countrywide Management Ltd of Ipswich (£5,000), and Michael Peacock (£2,000), address private.

Donor who supported Tory campaign in Ipswich on Cameron’s guest list

One of the Conservative party donors entertained by David Cameron was billionaire businessman Michael Spencer who has a house near Woodbridge and is an associate director of Ipswich Town.

The Ipwich Star picked up on this story today and went to local MP Ben Gummer for a quote in which he called for a £50,000 cap on “single donations”.

There is no mention of the fact that Mr Spencer’s business made a £5,000 donation towards Mr Gummer’s election campaign. But Ipswich Spy has been quick to fill in the missing information.

Could that reference to “single donations” be significant?

Labour in the east gets cojones

Ed Balls, one of the big beasts of politics, is to lead the May local election campaign for Labour in the East of England, reports the party’s Southern Front website (hat tip to Ipswich Spy).

Labour desperately needs to get some red back on the map of the east. The Shadow Chancellor is know as an attack dog and should inject some life into local politics.

They are aiming to turn Ipswich, Norwich, Waveney and Great Yarmouth red. Conservatives are already anticipating substantial losses, partly because they are defending a lot of seats they won last time round.

This year’s local elections, for district and borough councils, should be more exciting than in the past because of the scale of cuts being made.

And the role of the Lib Dems will be fascinating: will they distance themselves from their parliamentary colleagues, or let themselves be branded as pseudo-Tories? Where they  are the main opposition they will no doubt decide they are very anti-conservative.

County councils are not being contested until 2013.