Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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What is Dave going to do about the cost of living crisis?

electricity

And in other news, voters have dumped a strong incumbent party politician in a provincial poll in Nova Scotia, eastern Canada, and replaced him with a Liberal party candidate who, lo and behold, promised to bring under control soaring electricity prices.

David Cameron should take note, especially as he doesn’t even have a strong incumbency. The Nova Scotia result is what will happen to the Tories on a massive national scale unless they get their act together and come out soon with a clear, concise cost of living policy.

Conservative backbenchers are imploring him to counter the Labour leader’s announcement to freeze energy bills by ditching the green levies Ed Miliband forced on energy firms with his Climate Change Act 2008, and paid for through your increased electricity and gas prices. Only last Friday, darling of the Tory Right, Priti Patel, MP for Witham, speaking at an Ipswich Conservatives’ fundraising dinner, said the leadership needed to start talking about Conservative values and in a language the electorate will understand about the economy and the cost of living. Ms Patel rightly said “deficit reduction” didn’t mean anything to the ordinary voter in marginal seats like Ipswich.

Without mentioning him by name, she made it clear Ed Miliband’s rhetoric on energy prices – albeit hypocritical considering his actions when he was Energy Secretary in the last Labour government – was hitting home amongst the British people and the Conservative Party needed to counter with a distinct message of their own on how the Tories will tackle the cost of living.

Priti Patel signalled her party was constrained by being in Coalition but did not believe the Coalition would fall apart before the 2015 election, not least because the 2010 Coalition Agreement forms the statement of work for the Civil Service. Whitehall mandarins move slow at the best of times so there is no chance of a formal break-up of the Coalition government before the next general election.

But this should not stop David Cameron doing what the Liberal Democrats do already from their standpoint. The PM should set out a coherent Tory offering to the British people now and not be afraid to criticise the Yellow Peril when necessary. The Prime Minister could start by announcing his government is going to help with rising energy bills in a way government actually can: by scrapping the green taxes on our bills within weeks.

Lib Dem Ed Davey (what is it with these Eds!?), the current Energy Secretary, may have come out publicly to defend the plethora of green levies his department imposes on everyone’s gas and electricity bills but unless David Cameron wants to take his party down to the abyss of electoral defeat he needs to unleash his inner Tory. If he waits too long, the voters may have already decided to follow the Nova Scotian lead.

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Ed Miliband’s political rhetoric soars into a socialist nirvana

Labour leader Ed Miliband

Labour leader Ed Miliband acknowledges the applause after his Brighton conference keynote speech today

Remember where you were today. It will go down in history as the day the catastrophe that is the communist green policy agenda came home to roost.

Ed Miliband, the slippery, amoral, socialist snake he is, has secured a very strong political point in his Labour conference speech this afternoon in stating he will freeze energy prices for 20 months if Labour wins the next General Election. This will resonate across the country.

But let’s take a step back: it was Mr E. Miliband who has CAUSED your HIGH energy prices. nPower, EDL, Scottish Power, British Gas et al have pushed your electricity and gas prices up to pay for the investment in renewable energy the Government has forced them to do as a result of Labour’s Energy Act of Parliament 2008. The big six UK energy firms by law must pump billions of pounds into wind farms, solar, carbon capture and storage etc and funnily enough they need to be compensated to keep their profits sky high and continue paying handsome bonuses to the boss class. So what do they do? They come for you and one after another in short succession they put your bills up at least once a year, thus an average energy bill now stands at £1,200. Thanks Ed.

Your energy bills are the greatest outgoing after your mortgage or rent because of green policies implemented by the last Labour government to ward off unproven anthropogenic global warming in a time when global temperatures are actually going DOWN. However, don’t think for one moment Ed Miliband has had a change of heart and is having a McBridge-esque moment of contrition. He still very much believes in make-believe anthropogenic global warming as it fits very nicely with his closet Marxist views on capitalism, whispered into his ear every night when he was growing up, by his father the academic and publicly declared Marxist Ralph Miliband.

So potential prime minister Miliband and his sidekick Ed Balls, if they get into power, will still force energy firms to keep investing in wind turbines that don’t turn and have to be switched off when it is too windy but they will also force the energy providers to freeze your bills for 20 months. Hold on. Someone with a ‘U’ in Mathematics GCSE knows that this doesn’t calculate and in all seriousness it will probably switch off the lights à la 1970s style!

There is another way: repeal the Energy Act 2008. That’s not happening anytime soon, mate. Don’t forget we’ve got a social democrat in Downing Street with a big enough trust fund not to have to worry about the bill from British Gas when it drops on the sheepskin rug. David Cameron has done nothing to reduce energy prices in his three and half years in office and has encouraged them to rise by appointing Liberal Democrat Ed Davey (another Ed!) to the Energy and Climate Change (ha!) Whitehall department and by kowtowing to the EU directives which are forcing our coal and gas fired power stations to close down with no equivalent replacements. New nuclear power stations aren’t even off the drawing table!

So the electorate now has a choice on how to get their gas and electricity bill down between the socialist and deluded rhetoric of Ed Miliband and the deafening silence of David Cameron. Yep, no choice at all – neither are fit for purpose.

The thing is Ed Miliband isn’t stupid and he has dovetailed his energy prices policy (despite being entirely flawed) into a general critique on the Coalition Government’s handling of the economy and he has a point when he said in Brighton today:

“Too many of the jobs we’re creating in this country are just too low paid, too many of the gains in our economy are just scooped up by the privileged few, including those big bonuses, and too often you are left being charged over the odds.

“They used to say ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. Now the rising tide just seems to lift yachts.”

It is living standards which the next election will be fought on and frankly it doesn’t matter if Miliband’s rhetoric doesn’t match any inkling of what is possible in reality. People hear about a recovery in the economy but feel nothing has changed for them since 2010 – and in fact has got worse. Outside of the boss class, wages are offensively low. Even professional couples just have enough cash to carry them through from one end of the month to the other. This feeling is what matters to voters and Miliband knows which buttons to press.

It’s the economy stupid. You’re not wrong, Bill.


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Back to the Future

lloyds tsb

I received an interesting letter yesterday from Lloyds TSB. It was one of those very telling and amusing moments, which demonstrates how, on many occasions, the world elites really haven’t got a clue what they are doing.

Back in 1995, Lloyds Bank and TSB merged to form Lloyds TSB. Less than twenty years later, it seems that wasn’t such a good idea after all. The letter I received announced that from the end of this year the bank will be de-merged with two separate banks being established once again: Lloyds Bank and TSB.

This is happening because the whole banking sector overreached itself catastrophically over the last twenty years, with salesmen (think ‘Fred the Shred’ Goodwin) running UK banks rather than accountants and banks being merged into super-banks, stacked with billions of loans which one day were found, literally, to not be worth the paper they were printed on. That day of reckoning came in 2008 and the UK economy went into meltdown, which we are yet to recover from.

The EU (oh yes, another cabal) has ordered increased competition in the UK banking sector. They are right but surely George Osborne should order the de-merger of Lloyds TSB not some faceless bureaucrat in Brussels?

I feel quite nostalgic. If only we could reverse many of the other disasters which occurred in the nineties and early noughties?


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Osborne’s economic plan is akin to the country standing still

Failing: Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

Failing: Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

Moody’s, the credit rating agency, has downgraded the United Kingdom’s triple-A credit rating to AA1. This is hardly surprising and is a direct result of two things: Gordon Brown’s monumental mess he made of the British economy before he was booted out of office in 2010 and Chancellor George Osborne’s complete inability to get a grip on the economic collapse he inherited from Labour. Three years into the Coalition, we are now at the tipping point between these two reasons and today the blame for the economic woes of our country should be firmly laid at the door of the current occupier of Number 11 Downing Street.

George Osborne for reasons I am not fully aware has decided to do almost nothing to reduce the deficit and more importantly, for the future of our children and grand children, completely nothing to reduce the debt pile which now stretches from the Earth, past the moon and into deep outer space (if it was paper notes stacked on top of one another!).

Chancellor Osborne blames the Liberal Democrats for not allowing him to cut faster and deeper. He blames Europe. He blames the last government (although he is right on that one – up until the Moody’s announcement).

Actually, the reason we have lost our triple-A credit rating and the reason it will cost you and I more to go on holiday (if you are lucky) is because George Osborne does not have public spending under control and has instead pretty much followed the trajectory Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls would have taken and borrowed billions more on the international money markets. By the time of the next General Election, Mr Osborne will have borrowed an additional £600 Billion taking the national debt north of £1 Trillion. It has got to the point where the interest payments alone may mean we will never pay the debt off unless drastic measures are taken – and that means cuts, cuts, cuts.

The Left bang on about how the Coalition Government is making savage cuts but in reality Dave and George have dented public spending with a little pin prick: a grand cut of 1%. We were promised a bonfire of cuts by David Cameron, a holocaust of cuts. This would have saved us from the high taxes we will undoubtedly be paying for years if not decades ahead and the stagnant growth which comes with such an economic policy.

But we haven’t had any of that. You knew the game was up, even before Moody’s made their announcement on Friday, when Liberal Democrat Dr Vince Cable (a sinister looking man if there ever was one) stated during Thursday’s BBC Question Time that he was happy with the economic policy of George Osborne and agreed with David Dimbleby the Chancellor was being Keynesian in its approach to the fiscal woes of the UK. Keynesian economic theory is beloved by the Left.

I thought Peter Hitchens on the same programme had it spot on when he said of course no politician would get elected on a platform to cut NHS spending but it didn’t matter because sooner or later politicians will be forced to cut public spending, including the NHS. We can’t continue printing and borrowing money for ever. We’ll have to shrink the state drastically and, ironically, George Osborne is making this more of a permanent certainty.


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Ipswich Borough Council Meeting: 30th January 2013

Ipswich Borough Council Town Hall

Ipswich Borough Council Town Hall

Whilst the borough council continues to keep the webcams firmly switched off, I and fellow bloggers trundled down to the Town Hall last Wednesday to witness another meeting of all the councillors on Ipswich Borough Council.

Sorry for the late publication of my musings but David Cameron needed some more money off me.

New Tory Group Leader Cllr Chris Stewart

New Tory Group Leader Cllr Chris Stewart

Anyway, it was the first council meeting for the newly elected leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Chris Stewart, who defeated Nadia Cenci for the top Tory job at the borough council. As regular readers know, I backed Nadia for the role. Unfortunately, Cllr Cenci was not given the deputy leader post by Cllr Stewart, instead that went to Cllr Robin Vickery.

It didn’t take long before those who backed Cllr Cenci had their heads in their hands. Smack bang in the middle of Council Questions, Cllr Stewart, for reasons only known to himself, hurled himself out of his seat and decided to interject. It was the first time I had seen that done and was toe-curling embarrassing. The Mayor, Cllr Mary Blake, responded by asking under which Standing Order (the rules of council meetings) the new Tory Group leader was interrupting proceedings on. Cllr Stewart didn’t have an answer and to groans from those present he was told to sit down by the Mayor. Not a great start to Cllr Stewart’s first day at the office.

Council Questions were on a mixture of topics but there were four on the now Time to bust open the Energy Cartelubiquitous subject: Wind Turbines in south west Ipswich. Until now I have not been too fussed about the policy by the council to allow Partnerships for Renewables to build two wind turbines on their land at Thorington Hall. But as I have learnt more about the facts I’ve become firmer in my view: the Conservatives were strong-armed by their coalition partners the Lib Dems into agreeing to this policy when they were in power during the noughties and now Labour have no intention of representing Ipswich residents who are madly against having two 130 metres tall windmills roaring over their heads for the next fifty years. You see the turbines will be sited in the Babergh District Council area but the lands happens to be owned by Ipswich Borough Council. The people affected by their monstrosities will live in Ipswich Borough Council and, therefore, you’d have thought it reasonable for their local councillors (mostly LABOUR councillors) to represent their views to planners in Babergh. But Labour don’t want to do this because they love anything with a Communist Green tinge. Wind turbines, as I have written before, don’t actually work very well: they either can’t turn because the wind is too strong or won’t turn because the wind is too weak. There only purpose is to stand as monuments to anti-capitalism, hopefully blighting the view of Tory country-dwellers or causing ill health to the “peasants” in urban estates. And that’s another reason for the public being so mad with Labour over this decision: the windmills are going to be a few feet away from hundreds of people on Ipswich estates. Even hardcore environmentalists suggest it might be good to put the wind turbines offshore but the borough council wants them erected in the back gardens of Ipswich residents! Crazy.

Ipswich Spy's Sally Wainman

Ipswich Spy’s Sally Wainman

The Gavin Maclure’s Musings award for “standing one’s ground” at the council meeting on Wednesday must go to Sally Wainman (of the Ipswich Spy parish) who asked one of the Wind Turbine Development questions. Mrs Wainman took her position at the podium and began asking her primary question, which must be approved by the council’s top lawyer (the Monitory Officer) prior to it being read out. Sally Wainman had hardly finished her fist sentence when the elf-like major, Cllr Mary Blake, shouted out “ask a question!”. Mrs Wainman thought she was, I thought she was, fellow bloggers thought she was and as Mrs Wainman forcibly told the mayor the Monitoring Officer had approved the question as well. Cllr Blake back in her box, Mrs Wainman proceeded to make chief of wind Cllr Sandy Martin uncomfortable, comparing him to Pontius Pilate. Very apt.

The arrogance of Labour can’t be quantified. They even have an arrogant script now for responses to anything wind-related, which basically says it’s nothing to do with them, it’s a planning matter for Babergh District Council. In other words nothing to see here, move along peasants. Just like the behaviour of the politburo of the USSR.

There were other questions, most too boring to mention. It was left to Cllr Inga Lockington of the Liberal Democrats to ask something of substance which dovetailed into the Economic Strategy report later on in the meeting. Cllr Lockington asked what the council was doing to ensure the Greater Ipswich’s biggest employer, BT, would be continuing to invest in the area over the next twenty years. Cllr Carole Jones, who couldn’t sell water in a desert, mumbled something about senior council officers talking to senior managers at Adastral Park. I really hope chief executive Russell Williams keeps Carole Jones away from Martlesham as much as possible for everybody’s sake in Ipswich. If BT were to leave their base in the East of Ipswich (highly unlikely considering the new housing, hotel and school development taking place over the next few years) Ipswich would economically collapse overnight and would experience what real austerity looks like, a la Spain-style.

Cllr Stroet helpfully mentioned new Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore would not be increasing the police precept on our council bills in April, unlike the Labour Administration who are rumoured to increase the Borough Council precept by 2% in the spring.

Then we moved on to the council reports. As Labour have such a huge majority, there is never any risk of these reports not getting approved for implementation by civil servants unless two thirds of the Labour group collectively dropped dead just before the vote. The Housing Rent Increase report (yep, LABOUR are putting up council houses rents to pay for their new council houses) was approved. Regrettably, the Tory front-bench lost their backbone and abstained. Even the yellow peril voted against. The debate around this report was noticeable for Conservative Cllr Richard Pope and Shadow Housing spokesman exposing Cllr George Debman as a serial meeting absentee: supposedly he is the Tory representative on the Housing Panel but has never turned up.

The report on the Council Tax Base is purely administrative. It is just a calculation of how many households are going to have to pay the tax so the council can work out how much they will rake in. As I learnt in GCSE maths, there is only one right answer. The report was duly approved on the nod.

The next two reports on the Agenda were waved through as well.

Then the business-end of the meeting arrived. Cllr Carole Jones, Labour’s economic decline development chief, introduced the Council’s new Ipswich Economic Strategy. It was fair to say it was torn apart by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The Tory economy spokesman, Cllr Kym Stroet, asked about a million questions, highlighting gaps in the report. His speech was a bit Jackanory in places but Cllr Stroet had clearly ready every word, which was impressive.

For the Lib Dems, Cllr Andrew Cann was scathing. Cllr Cann told Cllr Jones it was a document written for the sake of it. “Take it away and write it again!” he thundered.

Cllr Stewart advised Cllr Jones to introduce free parking in the town centre. The new Tory Group leader didn’t elaborate how that would be paid for? Increased council tax perhaps?
Cllr Stewart continued his lesson by saying all would be well if we turned the clock back thirty years and had a thriving manufacturing industry once again in Ipswich – again, he didn’t elaborate on how he was going to overhaul the entire national economic model which now means Britain’s economy is based on the service sector. The Tory leader ended his lecture by declaring Ipswich had the “blitz look” about it. Nice.

Rescue: Former Tory Group leader Cllr John Carnall

Rescue: Former Tory Group leader Cllr John Carnall

At this point former Conservative Group leader Cllr Carnall had heard enough. The Tories’ big beast rose from the backbenchers to explain to his own group never mind the ruling Labour administration the key points to make. As in every economic development taking place in Ipswich right now is a result of Conservatives:-

1. The Tesco development on Grafton Way, set to bring in £50 Million of investment  – APPROVED by the last Conservative Administration, voted against by Labour councillors. This is down from £70 million as a result of anti-Tesco Labour taking back control of the council. As Cllr Carnall put it, Labour managed to lose £20 Million “in one fell swoop!”.

2. Travel Ipswich £21 Million investment: road layout improvements on Princes Street and other roads, new cycle facilities, re-developed bus stations etc – PUSHED for by Conservative Suffolk County Council. Lobbied for by a Tory MP, Ben Gummer, and APPROVED by a Conservative Secretary of State for Transport.

3. Flood defences – £6.6 Million: Lobbied for by Conservative Ipswich MP Ben Gummer and approved by Conservative-led Coalition Government

4. New Waitrose and John Lewis on former Cranes Site – supported and APPROVED by the last Conservative Administration. Also the little Waitrose in the Corn Exchange was also APPROVED by the last Conservative Administration. Cllr Carnall forgot to mention the Giles Circus re-development, which was dragged kicking and screaming to completion against fierce Labour opposition by former Tory councillor and transport chief Tanya Maclure.

5. University Campus Suffolk: Supported since conception with lobbying to central Government for grants back in 2007 by Conservative-led Ipswich Borough Council.

6. Culture economy: Masterminded by Cllr Judy Terry, the Regent Theatre was turned from a dilapidated failing operation into one of the most successful publicly-owned theatres (not easy to do when civil servants are involved) in the region.

We miss you Cllr Carnall.

This was a masterclass from John Carnall and encapsulated perfectly that it is the Conservatives who bring economic development to our town, whereas Labour in Ipswich are anti-enterprise and would rather see everyone living in a council house working in a nationalised industry. They are a dangerous bunch.

MP wannabe: Cllr David Ellesmere

MP wannabe: Cllr David Ellesmere

The Labour leader Cllr David Ellesmere’s response was to bang on about the “shocking skills deficit” referring to Suffolk’s appalling position on the GCSE results league table, announced last week, which Cllr Ellesmere is doing his damndest to pin on Tory Suffolk County Council ahead of the County Council elections in May. He was almost Bennite in his rhetoric. I have never seen so much passion in his speaking. I thought Mr Gummer has a real fight on his hands in 2015 then a fellow blogger reminded me the Labour candidate didn’t really need to fight for victory in two years’ time – in fact, Cllr Ellesmere might as well go and sit on a beach for the campaign and then fly back just in time for the count.  Unless Ben Gummer finds a hospital-esque subject to hook on to that is.

But just like with Tony Benn, once you have come down from the soaring rhetoric, you realise what utter rubbish Cllr Ellesmere was talking. It is the Labour-infested teaching unions which have caused the horrendous GCSE results with their anti-aspiration rhetoric in the classrooms. Funny how the independent sector doesn’t have such miserable results.

When it came to the vote on the Economic Strategy report, the Administration pushed it back to Executive for further work. I.e. a re-write.

And that was the end of another full council meeting, attended by three bloggers, some windfarm protesters and dead tree press Morning Ipswich Star Paul Geater, who had to stay to the end of the meeting because Labour cleverly put the Economic Strategy at the end of the agenda.

And with that, we headed off to the pub.

 


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Do you nimbys use the motorways and railways?

A map of the full network of the proposed HS2 high-speed rail project

A map of the full network of the proposed HS2 high-speed rail project

Today the Coalition Government has announced the second phase of HS2 – the new high-speed railway network connecting London to the North of England. As regular readers of this blog know, it takes a lot for me to congratulate the Coalition Government but when they are doing something which actually makes sense and is worthwhile, I won’t shy from congratulating them.

Unlike the OAP nimbys who are complaining about HS2 shuddering over their graves when it is finally completed in 2033 I am wholly in favour of this infrastructure project.

The new rail network will be Y-shaped and once the first phase (as I reported a year ago) from London to Birmingham is completed it will split into two high speed mainlines, one to Manchester and the other to Leeds.

This will be an excellent piece of engineering which will enable an economic boost during its design and construction, with 100,000 jobs expected to be created, and when it is finished it will increase trade between the capital and our great northern cities. It will do this by cutting journey times between Manchester and London from two hours, eight minutes today to 1 hour, 8 minutes. This will be a real step towards narrowing the North-South divide.

It makes me angry that men and women in the twilights of their lives, in particular those whiling away their days on local councils and who have been popping up on our 24 hour news channels today, are mounting campaigns against HS2. Have they been on a train? Have they used a motorway? Perhaps they shouldn’t if they are so set against development and faster communications?

These nimbys are only concerned with their pretty little affluent villages, where no person under 40 can dream of affording a house, being too close to the new line. But what about the benefits in bringing the economic powerhouse of Britain closer to the rest of the population, increasing trade and jobs? They haven’t given it a second thought.

Compare this to a small town called Toton which will be the site of the East Midland HS2 railway station serving Derby and Nottingham where local residents are on the whole delighted their town has been chosen to site one of five new high-speed railway stations. They did the maths and realised the benefits.

As much as I am very positive about HS2, the announcement today highlights again how the East of England is severely neglected by Whitehall when it comes to infrastructure improvements. There isn’t even one motorway in the whole of East Anglia. We have a railway line from Norfolk to London but it is in an appalling condition, with ubiquitous signalling faults, only one line north of Chelmsford, and by the time HS2 is built it will be faster to get from Birmingham to London (49 minutes) than it is from Ipswich to London (one hour, fifteen minutes).

Three weeks ago (as reported by Ipswich Spy) Network Rail published their proposals for investment on the Great Eastern Mainline but the £1.4bn required to mainly renew signalling and overhead power lines still must be approved by the Department for Transport for the money to be released. Even if the investment is green-lit by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin it is merely tweaking around the edges as no plans are in place to lay additional tracks north of Chelmsford. With only one line north and one line south, all it takes is a broken down freight train on its way to Felixstowe to cause chaos for commuters trying to limp home late at night from their jobs in London.

Why is it that successive Conservative and Labour MPs in Norfolk and Suffolk neglected the East of England for so long when it came to urging ministers to invest in our roads and railways? It showed a complete lack of foresight. It is great to see Ipswich’s MP Ben Gummer working hard to turn things around with his constant lobbying for the town in the corridors of Whitehall but if his father – now Lord Deben – had been just as forthright when he was MP for Suffolk Coastal for thirty years we could have had a journey time of less than one hour between Ipswich and London today in 2013. Instead, we have the prospect of our Brummy friends getting to London, over 120 miles, quicker than it takes an Ipswich commuter over 80 miles.

Now, where’s nice to live in Birmingham I wonder?