Tag Archives: Putin

Privatisation of energy risks lights going out this winter

The effects of the UK privatised energy system are now becoming clear, not only in cartelised pricing and poor service , but also, critically, in loss of energy security.   As a result of the latter there are real risks of blackouts this winter.   Because of the Big Six privatised companies’ failure to invest on a scale that matched the performance of the industry when in public ownership, the UK’s spare electricity generating capacity has tumbled from 17% three years ago to just 4% now as winter approaches.   As a result the government has been forced to take emergency measures over the next 3 years to try to keep the lights on during the winter months.   They plan to keep three power stations on standby and are actually proposing to pay businesses to use less electricity.   In other words taxpayers not only have to put up with rocketing energy prices to fund unprecedented dividends to shareholders and bonuses for top executives, but now have to subsidise the companies’reluctance to invest in ordedr to keep the lights on.
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Blair should be sacked from his post as Quartet Representative in the Middle East

Following the latest example of Blair’s shameful support for brutal regimes in the Middle East, I have sent this letter to all four members of the Quartet – Ban Ki-moon at the UN, President Obama, President Putin, and President Barroso of the EU Commission:

Ban Ki-moon,
General-Secretary,
United Nations,
UN Headquarters,
New York,
USA.
28 August 2014

Dear Secretary-General,

I write as a former Minister in the Blair government in the UK from 1997-2003 and a member of the Front Bench of my party in the UK Parliament for 29 years (1974-2003) to request that you and other members of the Quartet for Middle East affairs should now urgently review the position of Tony Blair as Quartet Representative.

The third war between Israel and the Palestinians has (hopefully) just concluded, but the task of achieving a long-term and sustainable peace settlement between these two nations will be an extraordinarily sensitive and difficult one, and I wish to propose to you that Tony Blair is utterly unsuited to this task, or indeed to any other representational role in the Middle East, and should be replaced.

He is almost universally viewed, as junior partner with President Bush, as author of the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, the results of which are still today being played out catastrophically across both Iraq and Syria. His reputation is thus indelibly linked with attempts to control the Middle East in accordance with Western interests, which has been the bane of the region over the last century and is fundamentally opposed to the development of free, independent, self-governing, democratic Arab States throughout the area.

In particular in the Israeli-Palestinian context Blair is seen as overwhelmingly pro-Israeli which effectively rules him out as a fair and balanced negotiator working in good faith with the confidence of both sides. His prejudice in favour of Israel was constantly displayed in the UK Parliament during previous wars, and it is perfectly clear he does not command the trust of the Palestinians at all.
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The downsides of stalling UK renewables are fracking and horrific human rights abuses

Britain as an island off the mainland of Europe potentially has greater capacity for production of renewable energy than almost the whole of the rest of Europe put together, mainly from onshore and offshore wind, wave and tidal power, and Scottish hydropower.   Yet UK electricity production from renewable energy, though it has increased in the last decade, is still very low and indeed still one of the lowest in the EU.   This is despite the mandatory EU requirement that Britain must generate at least 15% of its primary energy use from renewables by 2020 (whilst most other EU countries are obliged to meet a 20% target) which means that, since renewables make little contribution to transport or space heating, UK use of renewables for electricity production needs to rise to some 35% by 2020.    It is now about 8%, and if Cameron and Paterson have anything to do with it, that small figure may even begin to fall now.   But apart from such shockingly benighted foolishness in throwing away such a potentially world-beating British opportunity for our energy future, there is another darker side to this folly.
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The hypocrisy of the West towards Putin over Ukraine is really breathtaking

Thunderous Western denunciations of Putin’s actions over Ukraine ring hollow in the light of a decade of utterly unprovoked aggression against Iraq, let alone other bloody interventions in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan (repeated lethal drone strikes killing far more innocent civilians than Taliban), and Afghanistan (13 years of war), none of which was authorised by the UN.   The hypocrisy of railing against Putin for an ‘incredible act of aggression’, which has killed nobody, is truly breathtaking when the invasion of Iraq alone led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians.   But there’s more to this crisis than blatant double standards.

Ever since the Berlin wall came down in 1989, the US has treated Russia, not as a new partner in the club of nations committed (however falteringly) to democracy, but as the loser in the Cold War to be humiliated and marginalised at every opportunity.   Nato has relentlessly pushed its boundaries eastwards till it has absorbed the whole of Eastern Europe which was previously part of the Warsaw Pact, plus 3 former Soviet republics.   Not surprisingly this policy of containment of Russia through the ever closer incursion of US bases is perceived by the Russian political class as threatening to the strategic security of their country.
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Is Russia now in charge of Middle East policy?

The US has been comprehensively outmanoeuvred over Syria.   First, the Commons vote induced Obama to seek a vote in Congress to shore up his authority to take military action against the background that US public opinion shared UK public opinion in resisting any further intervention in the Middle East.   Then as uncertainty grew about the vote in the House of Representatives, he grasped eagerly at the lifeline thrown him by the Russian proposal that the Syrian chemical weapons sites be placed under international control.   Now he is caught on a dilemma: the fear that the Russian-Syrian bloc will spin out Syria’s compliance with this plan, with his credibility ebbing away the longer it is delayed, against the risk that threatening military action to speed up compliance risks Russian withdrawal from support for the plan.   In addition the US Administration is clearly divided about objectives: Kerry’s “what we are talking about is an unbelievably small, limited kind of effort” grates sharply against Obama’s “the US military doesn’t do pinpricks”.   This has become as much about Obama’s authority as about Assad’s criminality.
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Western policy on Syria is rapidly becoming self-defeating

Obama’s key line that the attack on Syria would be a short, surgical strike was designed to win over those who were appalled at Assad’s (virtually certain) use of chemical weapons and wanted him to be punished, but without risk of another long war.   His latest deviation from this line – that the missile strike is part of a wider scenario leading to regime change in Damascus – was designed to win over key Republican leaders in order to help win the Congressional vote next week, but it will inevitably alarm and turn off those in the first category.   Above all it will exasperate both Putin who for the first time yesterday hinted that he might under some circumstances (unspecified, but well worth exploring) reconsider Russia’s stance in the UN Security Council.   It will also have displeased and destabilised Iran’s new liberal President, Rouhani, who has indicated willingness to negotiate with the West and to pursue ‘reason and moderation’.   By trying to play contrary tunes to placate strongly opposed sections within his own domestic politics, Obama is in danger of alienating both as well as estranging his international interlocutors.   US policy is in a dreadful muddle.
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The impending US military attack on Syria won’t solve the chemical weapons issue: there’s a better solution

An American military strike against Syria in the next few days is a virtual certainty, despite the fact that US public opinion seems as tepid about this action as in the UK.    In which case it may be that what is driving the US is not so much an abhorrence against resort to chemical weapons – the US said nothing when Israel used the white phosphorous chemical agent against the Palestinians in Gaza 2 years ago, and also said nothing when Iraq used chemical weapons (probably supplied by the West) against the Iranians in the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s.   It is perhaps more their perceived need to bolster their global authority having laid down red lines in recent months, and having had Iran repeatedly ignore their warnings over the development of nuclear weapons.   But whatever the motive, a military strike is highly unlikely to achieve its objective of deterring Assad’s use of chemical weapons in future, perhaps on an even greater scale, unless the damage inflicted on the Syrian military machine is truly enormous, and the risk of calamitous collateral damage (significant civilian casualties as well as the likelihood of killing many Russian technicians assisting the Syrian armed forces) long before that happens is very high.
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Cameron: corrupt and unscrupulous slave to commercial forces

Several recent events have cast Cameron in a new light.   He constantly denounces Labour as subservient to its union paymasters, when in fact over the last 30 years it is almost impossible to identify anything that Labour governments have done to please the unions.   There is almost nothing on the other hand that Cameron won’t do, no commercial interest he will disdain, no policy he will refuse to alter if it will ingratiate himself with the sources of money and power.   He was quite prepared, indeed determined, to keep Andy Coulson the phone hacker at No.10 and to hand over BSkyB to Murdoch in order to buy the support of the Murdoch for the next election.   It is now clear that via Lynton Crosby he has prostrated himself before a wide range of commercial interests by changing government policy to suit them in order to recruit their money and power for himself and his party in the lead-up to 2015.   Five examples of this have come to light in recent weeks.  
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Ironically low growth is about the only good prospect for climate change

 Climate destabilisation, like tax avoidance, is one of those bad things which governments wring their hands about, say they are deeply opposed to allowing this profoundly harmful phenomenon to flourish, and then proceed not only to do next-to-nothing to stop it, but actually themselves fan the flames to extend it.   At the Earth Summit last June Obama, Cameron, Merkel and Putin didn’t even think it worthwhile to attend.   At the monumental failure of the Doha climate change conference last month world leaders were far less interested in a sustainable planet than in sustainable growth, the biggest threat to climate stability.    The pristine wildernesses of both the Arctic and Antarctica are now about to be defenestrated in a last wild global dash for fossil fuels.
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