Archive for September, 2013

Another conference week

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Wales

Carwyn Jones told the Labour Conference that his government was a “living, breathing example” of what Labour could do in power. A bit of a hostage to fortune that one me thinks.

Assembly are back after their long holidays. New boy Rhun ap Iorwerth asks his first question on  Silk. He may be new but the topics never change. And of course the opposition continue to moan about the government’s record especially on health. Times are never achanging in the wolrd of politics.

UKIP have changed their policy on the Welsh Assembly, they no longer want to scrap it. So says Nigel Farage.  Although the UKIP MEP for Wales John Bufton still wants to see it scrapped. Different views in the same party, surely not.

The first Private Member’s Bill introduced in the Assembly was passed. The Mobile Homes (Wales) Bill introduced Liberal Democrat AM, Peter Black. Its purpose is to establish a licensing regime for residential mobile home sites in Wales and giving mobile home residents greater security.

Housing Minister, Carl Sergeant has decided on new building regulations that make existing home owners meet the costs of lowering greenhouse gas emissions in their homes. In future anyone building an extension or renovating their homes will have to meet improved energy standards. Meanwhile he has reduced the obligation on house builders for a 40% reduction on greenhouse emissions to 8% (against 2010 standards) on new homes because of the costs involved. It’s a case of homeowners paying more, and house builders paying less.

 The rest

Labour leader grabbed the headlines by announcing a freeze on gas and electricity prices and breaking up the energy companies. It went down like a cold cup of sick with them. But he also had house builders in his sight. If they were sitting on land and not contributing to the 2000,000 house-building target, he’d see that the land was grabbed back and passed on to someone that would build.  He’d also going to give the vote to all above the age of 16.  Predictably the headlines were back to calling him “Red Ed.” If only. Labour’s strategy for the next election – appeal to core voters and dissatisfied Liberal Democrats and hope that UKIP would damage the Tory vote.  Looking at the polls it’s not a bad strategy.

According to the Guardian newspaper Ministers in the Department of Energy and Climate change met energy companies and their lobby groups a 195 times between the general election and March 2011. In the same period there were 17 meetings with green campaign groups. Little wonder that action on climate change is inadequate and perhaps also a measure of what Miliband will be up against to get his way with these companies.

The UK Treasury has launched a legal challenge against plans by Brussels to cap bankers’ bonuses. The EU intends to limit the bonus to no more than a banker’s salary, although if shareholders agree it could double. It’s the bonus culture that has been blamed for encouraging excessive risk-taking among bankers. It’s not surprising that UK is going to the courts, as it was the only member of the EU to vote against the plan. Another own goal by Osborne, methinks.

Not even the Chancellor, it would seem, can ignore the concerns that his Help to Buy scheme might fuel a property boom. He’s given more powers for the Bank of England(BoE) to intervene if prices get out of hand. The Financial Policy Committee of the BoE will make annual reviews of the scheme starting next September. The scheme to help buyers of new properties provides taxpayer insurance for up to 15% of a mortgage on houses worth up to £600,000, allowing banks to provide up to 95% mortgages at a reduced risk. Now the BoE  can reduce the £600,000 cap and raise the fees paid by lenders for the guarantees.

Scientists are 95% certain that humans are the main causeof global warming since the 1950s. In a report by the UN’s climate panel details the physical evidence behind climate change. To contain things will require “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”. So over to you politicians. See (http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2013/09/green-politics/)

 

 

Polls

The Labour lead is at its highest point for three weeks which would suggest that the public have reacted positively to the conference in general and to Miliband’s speech. Interesting that Michael Gove and Tim Yeo saying that energy prices too high. Gove going further  saying that he took claims by the energy companies that the price freeze would lead to blackouts “with a pinch of salt.” Back to the polls, remember the caveat that polling at party conference time can lead to some unusual results. I would expect the Conservatives to have a lift next week  because of their conference. A better picture will emerge in a couple of weeks time.

Wednesday

YouGov/Sun                  CON 32%, LAB 401%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 11%.


Tuesday

YouGov/Sun                  CON 32%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 12%.

Populus                           CON 33%, LAB 39%, LDEM 14%, UKIP 9%.

TNS BMRB                   CON 29%(+1), LAB 39%(nc), LDEM 9%(-2), UKIP 14%(+1) –

Sunday

YouGov/STimes         CON 33%, LAB 37%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 11%

ComRes/S.Indy                  CON 28%(nc), LAB 36%(-1), LDEM 10%(+2), UKIP 17%(-2)

Opinium/Observer         CON 29%(-1), LAB 36%(+1), LDEM 7%(nc), UKIP 17%(nc)

 

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Green politics

thThere’s science and there’s prejudice. This came clear this week in the controversial area of climate change and global warming. More and more people in the country don’t believe that the world climate is changing yet scientists issued their starkest warning that global warming was happening and posed a real danger to the planet.

The number of voters that thought the world’s climate was changing in 2005 only 4 per cent didn’t think that the climate was changing but now that figure has increased to 19 per cent.

Yet on Monday scientists were telling political leaders that the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation have now led to a warming of the entire globe, including land surfaces, oceans and the atmosphere.

Heat waves and storms and other extreme weather events are apparently on the up and the ice sheets are dwindling at an alarming rate. This causes sea levels to rise and the oceans acidified threatening the planet’s coral reefs.

The rise in temperature of more than two degrees which is on the cards will release the greenhouse gas methane from the Russian tundra and the polar ice caps will vanish so there will be no means of reflecting back solar radiation.  All of which could cause a planet that would be inhabitable for millions of its inhabitants.

So there we have it scientists saying that the planet is in real danger and the public increasingly not believing them. Why?

Well, the vested interest of the well heeled fossil fuels industry in denying the argument. Through their extensive lobbying activities they’ve got enough politicians and the media on their side to confuse the public about the science.

But politicians have a duty to respond with substantial policies to move the country away from its dependency on fossil fuels. Green policies should be more than a photo opportunity to ride a sledge in the Arctic. They should be meaningful and effective.

Freezing fuel prices is one thing but what next. To drive fuel prices down in the long term there needs to be a green energy revolution. Homes need to be made energy efficient and a massive drive needs to take place on renewable energy sources.

Politicians have also face up to those that oppose every development that is green. Those that campaign against wind power or against other innovative energy projects should not be given succor by politicians cynically chasing votes.

Global warming requires a fresh push up the political agenda. Too little has been heard about the issue at the political conferences. This needs to change.

Short-term political expediency is no longer acceptable. Humanity has emitted about half a trillion tonnes of carbon by burning fossil fuels over the past 250 years, a process that has caused atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to rise by 40%. The world is now on target to release another half trillion tonnes in the next few decades which could trigger a major jump in global temperatures. The very survival of out planet is at stake. The only defence is collective action marshaled by politics. Our very survival depends on politicians rising to the challenge.

 

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Miliband and Ball

M_f4e4d888-1b14-f7b4-bd30-88908228d8512In his headlong rush to differentiate himself from the Brown government Miliband gave  Cameron an open goal on the economy. Miliband accepted the argument on cuts.  Echoing in deed the Conservative propaganda that Labour had made a mess of the economy.

Not surprising the polls tell us that Labour’s economic credibility is now considerably less than at the last general election and way behind that of the government.

The Conservatives have understandably set up the legend that Labour was profligate.  It has worked. Miliband mildly went along with the ruse.

The facts tell a different story. Brown and Darling didn’t crash the economy with their public spending. They saved a run on the banks and stopped the melt down of the financial sector.  In fact borrowing levels were less under Labour than what was inherited from the Thatcher/Major governments.

When the coalition gained office they snuffed out with their austerity programme an economy that was growing.  Ideology took over from sensible economics and a period of austerity was embarked on

But alas often myth is more important than fact in politics. The government blamed it all on their inheritance rather than their own mistaken economic policies. The sad fact is that Ball and Miliband went along with the cuts agenda, albeit at a slower pace.

Now that there are some signs of economic recovery the coalition government are now seen as effective economic managers and the Opposition are mistrusted. That’s why this week Miliband and Ball are trying desperately hard to change the minds of a skeptical public that they can manage the economy.

Osborne has put the artificial target of abolishing the £25bn structural deficit by 2017. These targets will mean more austerity more cuts and or tax hikes.  During the campaign for our votes the current Chancellor will have to declare what’ he’s cutting or what he’s taxing.

But so will Labour. Having accepted the Tories game plan they too will have to come clean. It’s all fine and dandy to announce a raft of fine policies.  A rise in minimum wage, business rate cuts for small businesses more houses and even breaking up the enegy companies and freezing energy prices.  All very necessary but  not creditable if the opposition continue with Osborne’s economic targets.

Unless Labour come up with alternative economic policy and sell it to the electorate the voter will not give them the thumbs up. They have signally failed to address the issue thus far.

 

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