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Showing posts from 2016

Trump's climate change?

In my early teens, back in the 1960s I wrote a brief poem titled ‘under sunlight rays’. It was my first real statement of concern about the damage we were doing to our environment.  It was also my first attempt at poetry. 
There stood a tree in my childhood days And there grew grass under sunlight rays But where are these now so rare Under the concrete lain so bare My children Will not know In the world in which they'll grow They will read it in a book And I Will say look There grew a tree in my childhood days And there grew grass under sunlight rays
It was my first insight into the loss of our forests of trees, but little did I know then just how important they were. 
There Is considerable anxiety about President-elect Donald Trump, and not least because he does not accept Global warming is man made. He believes it is a Chinese hoax.
The concept of global warming, he says, was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.
Trump says he wants to cancel the 20…

The foolishness of Brexit

The warning from the British Bankers Association that some banks are considering relocating to Europe in the new year because of Brexit, reminds us once again of the perilous state we are in.

The problem is not that politicians lie to us. The problem is that they have not the courage to tell us what we don't like to hear. The government knows Brexit will hurt millions of people in the UK, but they won't acknowledge it. They know it is set to seriously harm our economy and competitiveness in the world, but won't tell us. They can't tell us the reality because it would destabilise the markets. So we are stuck in fantasy land. 
We go on with the belief, I would say delusion, that somehow all will be ok, but it won't. Even if we take the most optimisitc scenario of Brexit from economists such as Patrick Minford we are in for a very hard knock. 
Just as in war, everyone becomes an expert. In the comfort of their armchair in front of the television it is easy enough. Sud…

Opportunities for Labour, and why Labour can win

The Labour leadership election is over. Yes, it really is. Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected, as expected with a substantial majority. His supporters like to call this his 'mandate'. Yet it is doubtful this alone will resolve the problem for the Labour Party. The problem for Labour isn't simply leadership - it is direction and change.

The party conference season has been and gone. It was more noticeable for the renewed statement of the party's multilateralist position on the nuclear detereent. Jeremy Corbyn was crowned, but the problems fester. The issue of anti-Semitism in the party rumbles on, not least because of the ham-fisted response to the criticism from the House of Commons select committee. There are many who remain disaffected about Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. To some, it is a battle for the heart and soul of Labour. As such it is a battle that may destroy the party. But it is also an opportunity - the possibility of a new consensus in the party, and…

England needs a coherent national approach to waste

England has more than 300 different recycling systems. Some councils collect waste commingled - some separate food waste, and about another 260 do not. Recycling plastic differs across the country. This is why plastic packaging is often labelled 'check kerbside'.

There are different sizes and colours of bin, different types of truck, different types of recycling system and different types of anaerobic digesters consuming waste. Waste recycling is a post-code lottery.

The harmful effects of waste is a national problem. It requires a national solution. Cash-starved local authorities struggle to meet needs.

It is estimated that in London alone £19 million a year could be saved with a standard recycling system. The savings across the country could be immense.

We spend more than £3 billion a year simply collecting waste.

A single, harmonised system across the country, could drive up recycling rates.

WRAP recycling scheme data suggests that 97 per cent of English households are …

All not what it seems in packaging

I have just had a lovely slice of apple and blackberry lattice pie from Waitrose. It came in a cardboard carton, which I turned over to read recycling codes: card is 'widely recycled'; foil is 'check locally for kerbside'; but the window of plastic in the carton is 'not recyclable'. Why not? Why produce such complex packaging? It is unnecessary.

I also had a lovely bit of toast from a slice of Vogel's Soya and Linseed bread 'crammed with bursting seeds and grains'. You can imagine the explosions of the seeds and grains! It was lovely toasted with a bit of cheese, cheese on toast being one of my favourite snacks. But the really good thing thing is that the plastic 'bag' it came in is recyclable. Well done Vogel. it leads me to a question. If they can use recyclable plastic bags for their bread, then why can't others? Why is the plastic wrap on the bunch of bananas from Waitrose not recyclable? And also why are bananas in a bag at a…

A disconnected list of old and new targets isn't a climate strategy

Jeremy Corbyn is set to outline his energy strategy today.  It is expected to include

Promoting 200 new publicly owned "local energy companies" by 2025 able to supply towns and cities across the UK.
Encouraging 1,000 new "community energy co-operatives", backed by state funding to pay for connection to the National Grid.
Insulating four million homes to high energy efficiency standards
Phasing out coal-fired power stations by the early 2020s
Restoring the Climate Change Department
Supporting plans to plant 64 million trees in next 10 years

It is good that Jeremy Corbyn appears to be putting together a more coherent approach to the environment. But it is still a hotch-potch with little that is new. Indeed much is old. We need to be much bolder and more innovative.  


Coal-fired generators are due to be phased out by 2025 under this Tory government plans, so not a lot new there. There is very little on how we enhance renewable, although planting trees goes a lon…

For Labour to abolish university tuition fees it needs to find the funding.

Funding for higher education has become an issue in Labour's leadership election.  Most Labour party members I talk to would like to abolish university tuition fees.

Up to the 2012/13 academic year, higher education institutions in England could charge a maximum annual fee of £3,375. This changed in 2012/13 when the cap was increased to £9,000. The vast majority of universities and courses charge the £9,000 maximum.

Now the cap has been increased to £9,000 there is some evidence that it is deterring potential students from poorer backgrounds, or at the least it is affecting the decisions poorer students make. This was always the concern.  
But, whilst there is evidence that fees may affect decisions, the doomsday predictions of a massive decline in students from poorer backgrounds has not materialised. There are now more young learners entering higher education from lower socio-economic groups than at any time before. This number continued to increase even when the cap was lifted…

His way or none? Why I can't vote for Jeremy

There is an assumption that all would be well with the Labour Party if people hadn't expressed their genuine concern with what they consider the inadequacies of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. If only, it is said, the Parliamentary Labour Party and his Shadow Cabinet had supported him, instead of undermining him, all would have been fine. If they had been quiet and towed the line, then the party would not have been in the mess it is in. So, should they have stayed silent, or speak of their concerns?

There comes a point when the cost of staying silent outweighs the cost of speaking out. This is a judgment. Many call it a coup by the PLP. They paint a picture of a right-wing PLP out of touch with the membership.  This is the narrative of the Corbyn camp.

But Jeremy Corbyn, over the decades he has been in politics, showed the way.  It was Jeremy Corbyn who opposed almost all Labour leaders and rarely held back from speaking out, or voting time and again against the party line. As Se…

The only certainty about Brexit is its uncertainty.

Brexit has become a major issue in the Labour leadership election.  It is one of the defining differences of position between the two candidates. Owen Smith has pledged to fight Brexit, and to campaign for a fresh referendum when the terms of Britain's divorce from the EU are known.  It is a valid position.

Jeremy Corbyn simply rejects the idea of another referendum. The voters have decided, he says. He says it is 'democracy at work'. It is a puzzling position for the leader of the opposition.

Democracy does not end once a vote is taken. A vote is only a part of the process. Just imagine where we would be had everyone accepted the vote to stay in the EEC in 1975.  Referendums should be advisory not definitive.  This does not mean the vote should be ignored. It means that we should decide what it means. Whatever the results of the referendum, government still needs to be held accountable. They need to be challenged on the terms of Brexit.

We do not yet know what Brexit me…

My vote to remain in the EU

The EU referendum campaign is drawing to a close. It hasn’t been a good campaign. Yet the consequences of this vote are enormous – much is at stake.

We have heard arguments from the sublime to the downright ridiculous. The Tories have turned on each other in a bitter fight to the finish, which says more about the Tory party than it does about the real issues. This has been a fundamental problem because it has distorted the case for Britain remaining an active member of the EU.

Tory internecine warfare threatens the stability not just of their party, but also of the United Kingdom. Whatever the outcome, wounds opened by the campaign will be difficult to heal. The future of the Tory government is in question with the potential for political chaos if Britain votes to leave.

So, it has been left to Labour to make the substantive case for remain. Their case is a good one. It is idealistic, pragmatic, economic and social.

Labour with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership set out to make a distinctive case…

Age UK call for a meeting

As the 'media storm' subsides we move into the second week of our campaign for compensation for misled E.ON Age UK tariff customers. The message is clear from so many of the comments left by those supporting the petition. They all express outrage at both Age UK and E.ON.

Many of you would have heard the response of Age UK in the media. It is apparently all a storm in a teacup whipped up by the media and in particular The Sun.

Age UK and E.ON have responded to the media storm by 'suspending' their commercial association, but they continue to defend their position. They would have us believe this move has nothing to do with the campaign. Meanwhile they continue to peddle misinformation.

The boss of Age UK says that they received 'typically' just £10 from each customer signing up to the Age UK tariff.

A simple calculation shows this is not true. The accounts for the year 2014/15 for UK Enterprise Ltd show they received £6.3 million from E.ON for signing…

Come.ON E.ON now do the right thing

A victory of sorts, or at least a skirmish won. With pressure mounting as a result of The Sun investigation and growing public outrage, E.ON UK has announced that it will withdraw its misleading Age UK energy tariff and replace it with a better deal for older people. We will see the replacement this week. This is good news. But it isn't sufficient.

E.ON's move is an acknowledgement of the misleading nature of the Age UK tariff.  They are bowing to pressure, and they know it is indefensible.  Defending the indefensible is always a bad place to be. We need to maintain pressure for them to refund those pensioners who had a bad deal.

Age UK initially denied it was a bad deal, saying that fuel prices can go up or down, and that they advise people to search around for the best deals. But this is too simple.  it is easy enough to say consumers should 'shop around', but if that was the best thing for Age UK clients to do, then why not simply give them the best advice on how …

The truth about Age UK?

The truth about Age UK is that it has become a social enterprise company rather than a charity. You might say it is a charity with a commercial arm.  But there is a point when the aggressive nature of the commercial arrangements can compromise the charity's role and independence.

Age UK is proud of its commercial approach.  It has won awards for it.  It boasts about it.  It has been a trailblazer in the new approach for charity fundraising through engagement with the financial market in insurance, equity release plans,  energy tariffs,  and funeral plans.  But does this activity compromise its ability to challenge the financial market and campaign for better service for older people?  If you depend on your income from part of that financial sector, can you really be free from biased judgement? It compromises your position.

Perhaps that is the truth about Age UK and its commercial arm,  Age UK Enterprises Ltd.  Age UK Enterprise has an annual turnover of some £47.6 million.  In 210…

Little transparency from E.ON on deal with Age UK

Thank you to all who have supported the petition to get the energy company E.ON to compensate customers for any losses resulting from their Age-UK tariff. We are making progress but we need to maintain pressure.

Citing the "sensitive" nature of its payment to Age UK, E.ON confirmed the "commercial relationship" with Age UK. The involvement of a charity representing millions of older people should have transparent relationships with the commercial sector. Yesterday the scandal of Age UK commercial involvement with E.ON was front page news. The Energy Minister has asked Ofgem to investigate.

But Ofgem is a toothless 'regulator' with little power of enforcement. This is why it is important to keep the pressure on E.ON.

Age UK is the biggest charitable body representing and supporting older people. Its supporters do sterling work. But in promoting E.ON energy tariffs the board of Age UK has stepped over the line and compromised the charity's integrity.

Age …