New energy policy outlines increased dependence on nuclear power

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Note: this is from a piece I wrote for Redbrick Paper. You can find a host of other news about Birmingham and the wider world on their fine site.

Amid growing public opposition to wind turbines the government has unveiled plans to increase the role nuclear power will play in the UK’s energy economy over the next 8 years.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change has published figures that suggest by 2020 12% of the UK’s energy will come from nuclear power. Increasing the UK’s reliance on nuclear energy whilst building more offshore wind farms is expected to reduce the national grid’s reliance on coal-fired power stations.

Over the next 8 years the lifespan of existing nuclear power stations will be extended by ten years, according to the government’s report. Two new nuclear power plants are also expected to be connected by 2020, allowing the government to meet its targets on carbon reductions.

This report comes as 100 conservative MPs sign a letter to the Prime Minister David Cameron urging him reduce subsidies to onshore wind farms. This letter is designed to reflect the public opinion on wind farms, which many believe to be costly and unattractive. Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris has said that “The more the true full cost of wind energy is exposed the more you have to ask why we continue to back such an expensive and intermittent source of energy”.

The latest figures from the government have revised the role wind power will play in the UK’s energy mix. Wind farms will now produce 4GW less energy than originally expected. This reduction will be balanced by an increase in the use of nuclear energy.

However, given the increased attention nuclear energy has received over the past year it is not clear that this new energy mix will be palatable to the UK public either. Nearly a year ago the Fukushima disaster saw the meltdown of 3 nuclear reactors following the Tōhoku earthquake. As the anniversary of the disaster draws nearer public fears surrounding nuclear energy will no doubt be heightened.

52% think the NHS bill should be dropped

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

A report from the Guardian this morning has shown the true extent of opposition against the NHS bill. Tom Clark reports that:

Labour is one point ahead, on 37%, with Ed Miliband’s party up from 35% last month. The Liberal Democrats slip back two to stand at 14%, and the combined total of the smaller parties has climbed by four points, to 13%.

An outright majority of respondents, 52%, say that the bill – which would overhaul NHS management, increase competition and give family doctors more financial responsibility – should be dropped. That is against 33% who believe it is better to stick with the plans at this stage.

Only the very youngest respondents aged 18 to 24, the least likely to vote, favour sticking with the plans, by 46% to 39%. Opposition hardens with age, and is at its most marked among the over-65s – who favour dropping the bill by a 56% to 29% margin. A third of Conservatives(31%) and a significant majority of Lib Dem voters (57%) also want the proposed law to be ditched.”

The government has over a month to withstand this tirade, and they’re looking increasingly marginalised. The Lib Dems need to put some serious pressure on them by speaking out in public, as Simon Hughes has done. What is more their peers in the House of Lords should scrutinise this bill all the more finely because of this opposition. This could serve to draw the process out for as long as possible.

Labour still ahead but Lib Dems are real winners in the polls

February 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

The latest polls show labour is still just ahead of the Tories at 41% to 37%, however it’s the Lib Dems who are the unlikely winners in this race.

What Cameron’s actions over the last few weeks have shown is that he is desperate to keep the government together. He fears a Blair style reshuffle which would weaken his government and damage policy. It’s because of this fear that he was so quick to defend Lansley against attacks from Ed Miliband during PMQs.

In the latest poll race, the Lib Dems only just made it to the finish line, hobbling in with a mere 7%, whilst UKIP snapped at their heels on 6%. It was revealed this week the that the Lib Dems might be getting cold feet in the coalition. Those close to Cameron fear that they might walk out of the coalition agreement a year and a half before the 2015 election. This would leave Cameron without a majority in parliament, a situation which would effectively cripple his government.

If the Lib Dems continue to feel they are losing credibility in the coalition they could begin to make increasingly large demands on the Conservatives. This new found confidence could begin in the next few weeks as the two sides battle it out over the upcoming budget. Lib Dem heavyweight David Lewis is pushing for his £10,000 tax allowance and with the backing of Simon Hughes and Labour’s Ed Balls it is looking increasingly like a possibility.

This policy has united Hughes and Lewis who stand at opposing ends of the often muddled Lib Dem political spectrum. Hughes is the foremost social democrat in the party, whilst Lewis (who is the only Lib Dem not to oppose the Tories) has staunchly liberal economic views.

Who Supports these NHS reforms?

February 15, 2012 § 2 Comments

 

Over at whosupportsnhsreforms.org.uk they have made a very pleasing visualisation depicting the true weight of public, private and political opinion against the NHS reforms. I thought I’d take this opportunity to feature their site. Enjoy…

Read more at:

Clegg backs broken reforms – The ICB

The Financial Times joins growing consensus against NHS reforms – The ICB

The complete list of organisations against the Government’s NHS bill – The ICB

Government floods media with Olympic news

February 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Notice a lot of news about the Olympics lately? That’s partly because, for the people of Britain, its the sporting event of the decade. But, its also because every day the government is manufacturing three positive news stories about the Olympics. In what could be seen as an attempt to hijack the games for political ends, the government is taking every opportunity to promote their own story of the games.

The government’s News Co-ordination Centre has been told to produce one ‘main government story and two targeted at more specific audiences’ each day.

Speaking to The Times today Sir Menzies Campbell, a former Olympic sprinter and member of the Olympic board said, ‘its well to remember that the bid was achieved under the previous government’. He also reminded people of the non-partisan spirit of the games.

It’s clear that the government is taking every opportunity to promote the country oversees through their press centre. What remains to be seen is how far they will push their own image through their thrice daily news up dates.

If they do, they could face a number of problems. Primarily, they could face retaliation from Scotland in 2014 as the country simultaneously hosts the Commonwealth Games and goes to the polls to decide its future within the United Kingdom.

If the conservatives come across too self-righteous about the games they could lose face if the opposition seizes upon the opportunity to humiliate them.

Finally, we can expect a host of stories coming to light this year exposing the tactics of some PR agencies. This is tipped to be this year’s MP’s expenses. If the government’s press office comes into the limelight through the promotion of the games there is potential that it could be marred with the same brush, however clean its tactics really are. If the climate changes and people suddenly become sensitive to the techniques used by PR offices the government’s own centre could be humiliated, however unfairly.

Clegg backs broken NHS reforms

February 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

As peers today debate around 25 amendments to the government’s controversial Health and Socialcare bill, Nick Clegg has shown his support saying that Andrew Lansley has is passionate about the NHS.

Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, told the BBC today that:

“Andrew Lansley is the architect of the NHS bill. He cares passionately about the NHS. He’s the right man for the job and he must see it through.”

This comes at a time when back bench Lib Dems are pressuring Clegg to speak out against the bill because of the controversial competition it would bring to the NHS.

Yesterday Simon Hughes, the president of the Lib Dems, said that Lansley had to go. Whilst Labour are taking every opportunity to attack the government on this bill.

David Cameron seems hell bent on forcing his reforms through parliament. In a move that is reminiscent of Tony Blair, he seems to be ignoring all opposition cries, and seems committed to the idea and even a bad reform bill is better than none.

What effect this will have on the Tores is not yet clear, but as they think about the next general election it is certain that the looming crisis in the NHS will enevitably be used by Labour as ‘proof’ that the Tories cannot be trusted with the NHS.

This bill could well become this generation’s poll tax, a fundamentally flawed idea which the government pursues with such tenacity that they blind themselves to the opinions of the voters.

However, after Cameron’s semi u-turn on Europe the PM getting quite a reputation for last minute cold feet. Especially when he thinks the public is against him, take bonuses for example. Perhaps he is pushing his broken bill through in an attempt to save face and restore the confidence of his back benchers.

He needs to do something to show the government won’t turn tail and run at the first sign of opposition.

Hughes attacks Lansley as country turns against NHS bill

February 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today The Guardian news paper has reported that Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of the Lib Dems, has come out against Andrew Lansley saying that he should be replaced after the reform bill becomes law.

On the Andrew Marr show this morning he said “I’m clear we need to move on from this bill. My political judgment is that in the second half of parliament it would be better [for Lansley] to move on.”

Simultaneously a YouGuv poll has shown that the country is strongly against the bill. A poll for the Sunday Times shows that “only 18% of people said they supported the NHS reforms. It revealed that 48% opposed them, with 34% saying they were not sure.”

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