Monday, August 22, 2011

Nonsense on Stilts

I would much rather see even the daftest of government policies, whether in Scotland, the UK, or anywhere else, overturned in the ballot box rather than the courts.

Nevertheless, there can hardly be any doubt that the lawyer who proposes to challenge the outrageous policy of the Scottish government on student tuition fees has a point.

If the Scottish government had ruled that students normally resident in Scotland should be entitled to free University Education, but that ALL students not normally resident in Scotland should have to pay a fee, that is a decision which they should be entitled to make. I realise that such a policy may be challenged by other EU countries, but I cannot see that it would be unfair or unreasonable.

However, to allow students from all parts of the EU other than England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to attend Scottish Universities for free, while singling out residents of those three countries for a charge is blatantly discriminatory. To charge a fee to students attending the same University from Northern Ireland but not the Irish republic, or to charge a fee to a student at the same college from Cumbria but not Calabria, is, to borrow an old expression, nonsense on stilts.

I hope this policy will be reconsidered.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Remembering the victims

Last year something flipped inside Derek Bird and he gunned down twenty three residents of Copeland, twelve of whom died. (If I hadn't been working down south that day, I would have heard the shots of the Whitehaven shootings from my office.)

Last month Norway suffered in turn from a crazed mass-murderer, and they have been remembering the victims today.

I am sure I will not be the only resident of Whitehaven and indeed of West Cumbria who will be thinking of both our own victims and of the people of Norway today, and remembering all the victims and their families in my prayers.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Well done England

I never thought to see an England cricket team win six consecutive test series, including a crushing defeat of an excellent Indian test side, and go to number one in the world rankings.

Very well played.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Paul Wilkinson RIP

I served many years ago on the Conservative party's former National Advisory Committee on Education (NACE) with Professor Paul Wilkinson, the country's leading academic expert on terrorism, who has just died.

He was a remarkable man. I did not know him well, but I did know him well enough to have great respect for him.

Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Responsibility for riots rests with - the rioters

The death of Mark Duggan must be fully and impartially investigated. And it will be.

Those who have concerns about this have every right to organise peaceful and law-abiding demonstrations. They do not have the right to riot, burn, or loot.

I have been rather irritated by those on both sides of the political divide who have sought to blame their political opponents for the riots which have been taking place.

The riots are not the responsibility of David Cameron. They are not the responsibility of Gordon Brown. Or Tony Blair, John Major, Maggie Thatcher, Jim Callaghan, Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, or Robert Walpole.

They are the responsibility of the rioters.

Madsen Pirie in his book "How to win every argument" defined a logical fallacy which he called "Thatcher's Blame" and which he described as follows:

* if you want to blame your political opponents for civil disturbance during a period of wealth, you claim that their policies have led to a celebration of material wealth which has lead to a breakdown of morality and hence to riots:

* alternatively, if you want to blame your political opponents for civil disturbance during a period of poverty, you claim that the rioters are motivated by despair and desperation, and that your opponent's policies have led to the deprivation which has lead to a breakdown of morality and hence to riots.

He was inspired to put this forward after riots during both the recession of the early eighties and the boom of the late eighties were ascribed these diametrically opposite causes and yet both were blamed, often by the same opposition politicians, on the Thatcher government using these rather inconsistent arguments.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Luke Bozier at Labourlist wises up:

Hat tip to Tim Montgomerie at Conservative Home for pointing out that Luke Bozier has been writing some surprisingly sensible things on the Labourlist blog.

"Labour says the reason it created this fiscal mess was to save the country from a collapse of the banking system. But let's get real – the reason there's a deficit is because tax income didn't cover the high public spending before the credit crunch/banking crash. Had the Labour government had a spending review mid 2000s, and reduced public spending, the deficit today would have been smaller. We must begin to admit that we were fiscally irresponsible for years, in order to gain the trust of the public again, at least on the economy."

He continues:

"It's a shame Ed didn't include a single book on boosting growth or economic responsibility in his summer holiday reading list. It's clear we can't leave this job to the shadow chancellor – he's made hardly any effort (nor has Ed Miliband for that matter) to take responsibility for the economic mess we're in, or to develop the policies required to re-gain fiscal credibility. We need a more vocal group of 'fiscal realists' within the Labour Party... In a way, we need our own kind of Tea Party."

My word. You can read the whole article here.

Japanese earthquake causes economic blow for Copeland

A natural disaster on the other side of the world had dire economic consequences for West Cumbria this week, as the NDA announced that because of the halt to Japanese demand for reprocessing while their nuclear power plants are offline, the existing Sellafield Mox Plant (SMP) will be closed.

Tony Fountain, CEO of the Nuclear Decomissioning Authority, said that

“The reason for this [closure] is directly related to the tragic events in Japan following the tsunami and its ongoing impact on the power markets.

“As a consequence we no longer have a customer for this facility, or funding.”

An NDA statement said: “The NDA board has assessed the changed commercial risk profile for SMP arising from potential delays following the earthquake in Japan and subsequent events. It has concluded that, in order to ensure that the UK taxpayer does not carry a future financial burden from SMP, the only reasonable course of action is to close SMP at the earliest practical opportunity. The decision is no reflection on the SMP workforce, which has continued to improve operating performance.”

SMP deals only with plutonium that has been reprocessed at Thorp. It produces Mox fuel from this plutonium. One tonne of plutonium, when recycled as Mox fuel, can create more energy than two million tonnes of coal.

At the time of the earthquake, Japan was SMP's only customer. Despite that, its medium-term future appeared bright after the NDA and 10 Japanese utilities agreed in 2010 on a three-year plan to refurbish SMP. But the Japanese earthquake in March and the problems at Fukushima upset all the calculations.

This does not necessarily mean that there is no chance of the proposed new MOX plant going ahead: Unlike the existing plant, which supplies overseas customers, now exclusively Japan, the new facility would provide fuel for a new generation of British nuclear power stations such as the one planned for Sellafield.

As Cumbria county council leader Eddie Martin put it, “The Government must surely step in to ensure that nuclear skills and jobs are retained in west Cumbria for the longer-term future of the industry and for the regeneration of Cumbria as a whole. The most effective way of doing this is for the Government to immediately confirm it will commission and build a new Sellafield Mox plant as soon as possible – not least because other countries, such as Russia, are building Mox plants and the commercial opportunities may well bypass us if we are not quick off the mark.”