Scottish Independance: look to the Isle of Man

Scottish Saltire at Independence EventThe ongoing Scottish Independence issue has been a thorn in the UK’s side since the 13th century featuring such historical figures as Robert The Bruce, William Wallace and now, the perhaps less enigmatic, Alec Salmond. This week is going to see the decision to end all decisions (apparently), a referendum on independence by the Scottish people.

The closeness in the vote has been widely reported and serves to ramp up the tension and poll-fatigue in equal measure. Just get on with it, will you?

Key questions remain unanswered, despite the pontifications by both sides. How will the welfare state be managed? How will Scotland’s currency be handled? Will costs increase for Scots post-independence? What is Salmond really after?

Voters, who are being led by a media often accused of being partisan (including the BBC), have been asked to decide based on contradictory and incomplete statements, with few reference points to understand how independence could work.

Look to the Isle of Man

The Isle of Man enjoys an independence in all but name that provides it autonomy in most respects. We’re a quasi-independent state, apart from our reliance on defence services provided by the UK. Whilst the UK Government has the ultimate control of Manx legislation, it rarely exercises this right. The last time this was exercised was in the 60s for the banning of pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline.

Scotland has a population of 5.6 million, the Isle of Man has just 80,000. Yet we have our own welfare state, National Insurance scheme and health service. These are all compatible with the UK systems, and collaboration is common where residents move to or from the island or require more advanced healthcare than is available on island. If we can finance our own welfare state, with apparently low taxation, why can’t Scotland?

We have our own parliament (one of the oldest continuous parliaments in the world), with powers extending widely and deeply allowing the island to truly govern itself. We can set our own fiscal, social, education and infrastructure policies. A recent consultation for the island has seen the island moving towards the International GCSE, instead of Michael Gove’s revised exam standards. Scotland can already set its own educational agenda, though aspects of its social and fiscal policies remain Westminster-authored. The education model in Scotland is certainly intriguing, considering the higher-education funding for Scottish students.

Stores have threatened higher costs for businesses which will be offloaded onto consumers. With or without currency union, a separate fiscal policy will undoubtedly add layers of complexity which may introduce additional costs. Residents of the Isle of Man can already attest to the higher expenses involved with living in a separate state, yet inevitably bound to the UK consumer market. Delivery costs are higher, food takes longer to get here and companies may need to domicile themselves as franchises within the island. In Scotland’s favour is the lack of the Irish Sea adding 12 hours to a delivery schedule.

The currency question, despite threats from Mark Carney about the possibility of achieving currency union or parity, is arguably possible based on a similar model by the Isle of Man. Guido Fawkes outlines the possibilities of parity-Pound based on the Manx model, who manage parity despite a continued lack of oil reserves. Salmond himself has also recognised the Manx Pound, though unfortunately refers to the island as a “tax haven” betraying his statemanship.

Then Scotland has its oil. How much they have, and whether it is actually theirs, England’s or Shetland’s remains to be seen. One thing is clear, the Isle of Man doesn’t have any yet we manage to fund ourselves (though apparently we’re going to have a look).

Perhaps the Isle of Man is closer to what Salmond may actually want, Devo-Max. We’re able to benefit from a close working relationship with the UK but remain autonomous, enjoying the best of both worlds.

Perhaps the better option would be to elect Groundskeeper Willy:


Considering the events not only of the last few days in Ukraine, but stretching back some 20 years, Europe is a hotbed of activity for politics, civil unrest and conflict. With Russia on its doorstep, the dynamics within Europe are getting ever tenser, complicated by Russia’s gas advantage. I thought I’d explore some maps of Europe to try and understand these dynamics further.

NATO members

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was set up during the Cold War between the West and the USSR. Although its role has somewhat changed since the break up of the Soviet Union, it remains a reminder of that difficult period. As such Russia sees an increasing number of its neighbours joining NATO which can only increase its discomfort.

NATO Members

Source: NATO

EU members

Although Britain is currently deep within an in/out debate with regards the EU, other countries are fighting to get in. In particular, former Soviet countries are keen to embrace Western ways and identify membership of the EU as a major achievement and line in the sand from former times. More of Russia’s western neighbours are snubbing Eastern ways and favour integration with the former enemy.

EU Members

Source: EU

Gas dependencies

Russia has a very strong position within the European gas market, accounting for around 30% of total gas dependence. Although alternative sources are constantly being explored, 30% can materially affect prices.

Russian Gas Dependence

These statistics are from 2004 and are therefore fairly old. However, their significance remains.

Countries with dependence on Russian gas that are ex-Soviet countries: Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania Moldova, Latvia, Georgia, Estonia.

European countries with dependence on Russian gas greater than or equal to 0.5% of total domestic consumption: Germany, Italy, Turkey, France, Austria, Poland, Netherlands, Greece, Belgium.

European countries with dependence on Russian gas less than 0.5% of total domestic consumption: Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom


Conflict within the last 20 years

From Serbia to Syria, Europe and the Middle-East is at best a basket-case of tension. Civil unrest, aggressive neighbours and religious conflict pepper the landscape. Just searching for “unrest” yields hundreds of results which suggests Europeans are a “bolshy” lot (etymology unintended). But countries in such close proximity, in the middle of the geographic cold war, are bound to see conflict.

Conflicts in last 20 years

States experiencing civil unrest: Azerbaijan (2013), Belarus (2010)Bulgaria (2013), Czech Republic (2011)Denmark (2008), England (2011)Estonia (2007)Greece (2011-ongoing), Hungary (2006), Italy (2010)Latvia (2009),  Lithuania (2009)Moldova (2012)Romania (2012), Slovakia (2004), Slovenia (2012)Sweden (2013)Turkey (2013), Ukraine (2013-ongoing)

States experiencing conflict (on its own soil): Albania (1997), Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia (1992-1995)Georgia (2008), Libya (2011)Montenegro (1999), Northern Ireland (1968-1998)

By-election fun! Sefton, bus drivers, economy and Manx Gaelic

It’s by-election time. And I love elections. It’s sort of a do-over from the poor result in the previous Isle of Man General Election which saw Geoff Corkish and John Shimmin get in, despite my feeble attempt otherwise. As a further spit in the face of democracy, Geoff Corkish, a man who has previously spoken against democratic freedom of speech using modern media such as social networks, has been promoted to the Legislative Council – undemocratically.

The four candidates have been out campaigning in the Douglas West ward, some of whom are hoping for better success this time round.

Martin Moore once again put his name forward for election, a welcome move considering his agitation at the way the MHKs are conducting themselves and the island. I like an agitator. However, once again he pulled out. This time, it wasn’t because he filled in the forms wrong, it was because he got cold feet.

That left Clive Dawson, John Skinner, Quintin Gill and Chris Thomas. I sent them all an email asking 4 simple questions:

  1. Sefton. Handled well? What could have been done better?
  2. The island is looking pretty dire economically. How can this be improved?
  3. Bus drivers’ strike generally, and in particular over TT week. Other public workers have similar poorly handled contracts. Are we to expect another set of strikes?
  4. Manx Gaelic investment and support. How will you act to maintain this heritage and educational benefit?

Quintin Gill has relocated from his previous ward of Rushen where he lost in 2011.Perhaps experience would be an asset. With his manifesto citing “earn more, spend less, utilise savings”, it seems pretty usual electioneering. Expansion of existing sectors such as E-Gaming to earn more is unimaginative. Spending less on already inflated salaries is going to be very difficult – when was the last person to quietly sacrifice their inflated package? And utilise savings? Of course, use the reserves – I’m sure they’ve already been spent at least twice. On Sefton he was of the same idea as Clive Dawson, that the case sadly lacked any form of PR competence to involve the tax payer and voter in their explanations. As for Manx Gaelic, he acknowledged the value of Manx Gaelic, particularly as it has such good value for money. Whilst not committing to anything in particular, he did sign off “lhiats”.

Chris Thomas’ manifesto seems to be very well thought out and is the only one to include actual data in numeric and graph form. Some good ideas, particularly his views on The Steam Packet and MEA being brought back into local ownership. Although he says he has a certificate in Manx Gaelic and has strong Manx Gaelic knowledge within his team, no real commitments were obvious other than general support in heritage. I’m looking for something more than just Manx Gaelic as a heritage asset.

John Skinner failed to engage with me last time and didn’t bother to reply to the email this time, either. So much for him. Must try harder. In fact, don’t bother. There’s no room for more tardiness in Tynwald.

Clive Dawson was the only candidate to make the effort to come out and see me after reading the email. A nice guy, seems honest, though he is unapologetically UKIP like. When I challenged him on this, he was quite enthusiastic about removing benefits from immigrants and actively preventing future immigration to the island despite the value of working immigrant people – myself included (though this was apparently a different type of immigration). He suggested the island could get out of the financial problems it finds itself in through attracting charities to use the island as a base, but in the same breath, also Middle Eastern countries such as Qatar – even with their questionable human rights. Clive acknowledged the value of a second language and the value of developing bilingualism in education, but seemed more concerned about other languages than Manx Gaelic. However, I do thank him for his time.

Update – 22 May 2013 – Day before

John Skinner did email me tonight. Perhaps too late to swing my decision. Alas, his response was again a mixture of better PR and a lack lustre assertion of the importance of Manx Gaelic. He did suggest that things are as bad as I made out for the island, which has enjoyed consistent economic performance of 3%. Maybe, but tell that to those who are losing their jobs and seeing small business closed (the bigger ones just get bailed out).


Is Social Media powered by Lefties?

So today is the big day of the General Election and we’re just left to sit in a bizarre radio silence while the polls remain open that seems unearthly following the past hectic 4 weeks. I’ve been watching and participating in various social media channels to add my 2 cents (so to speak) on policy, parties, debates and discuss with fellow Tweeters and Facebookers. I’ve enjoyed the last four weeks, except for the distraction element!

We know that the opinion polls are essentially meaningless, and who knows anyone who knows anyone who has ever been polled anyway? Assuming there is some validity in them, over the past four weeks we have come to see a pattern. Starting with The Conservatives in front, they lost a number of points to the Liberal Democrats following the leader’s debates. This has been particularly fascinating, as we may now need to upgrade Peter Snow’s (well, it’ll always be Peter’s, Jeremy) Swingometer to the third dimension. Points have been traded between all three parties, but particularly between The Conservatives and The Liberal Democrats.

One party’s performance has remained consistent, however. Labour has been losing points and sat at third place across most polls taken last night (5 May 2010). Yet, if you look at Twitter, you’d not see that pattern. Yesterday, I pinned my flag to the post as far as my voting inclinations, and this resulted in a number of people replying to me telling me of their disappointment and whether they would unfollow me, or not. We had a bit of a debate and I imagine threats to unfollow me were in jest. I expect that only people who disagreed with my views would take the time to reply, but watching my stream today seems to be of the same opinion – that of the left of the political spectrum.

So is Twitter and Social Media in general, just a bunch of Lefties?

Consider a Twitter search for “Tory”. Run your eyes down there and count how many are pro and how many are against a Conservative government. It seems people go out of their way to actually tweet “not Tory”, as opposed to who they voted for.

So while people are possibly tweeting in a left-of-centre manner, that’s not necessarily due to lack of effort by other parties. TweetMinster has been an excellent service in the last few weeks and has profiled the live Twitter feed according to region, issue, party and MP. Their analysis shows that both top parties are more or less equally represented – bit this is in candidates and MPs, not the “public vote”. So while David Cameron has specifically used Social Media and his various MPs have actively engaged with the electorate on Twitter, in an “Obama-style” campaign, it doesn’t seem to be doing him any good. In fact, it seems to be turning against him.

I would be a fool to think that this identifies any patterns which may be played out this evening, but it is a question worth asking. Does Social Media attract a more left-of-centre userbase? At first sight, it appears it does.

Voter apathy – “None of the above”

Now Gordon Brown has finally called a General Election, it’s time for democracy to take over. I, for one, am very excited about the election and looking forward to staying up and watching the results trickle in and I am particularly looking forward to seeing how Social Media will play a part. Will this be another election like America’s most recent election, which saw Obama leverage Social Media to reach potential voters who wouldn’t otherwise participate?

But why will people not participate? In the last few weeks, I have spoken to a number of people about the election and politics in general. I think if you have been around me in the last 3 or 4 weeks you know exactly where I don’t stand. But people, of all ages, seem to be apathetic about the whole process. When asked, I either get the response, “What’s the point, they’re all the same”, or the even more frustrating “I’m not allowed to vote, my religion prevents it”.

People in general are clearly apathetic about the whole process. They look at the politicians, who are all fighting for the centre-ground, grasping at every benefit they can squeeze out of the system and acting seemingly unaware to their election manifesto. Politics has changed. Gone are the days of “old politics”, where you were a “lefty” or a “Tory”, or even a “bleedin’ heart liberal”. These aren’t particularly nice terms for what can often be deep beliefs and ideals, but they engendered a determinism in people. People were staunchly left, or right. They believed in their ideology and could trust their chosen party to implement those ideologies in whichever way they saw fit. Now, with all the parties fighting for the centre-ground, ground which had already been owned (and apparently sold) by the liberals, there are no real differences anymore. Choosing one party over the other isn’t going to produce the “change” that it perhaps could, which itself could regenerate politics, wider economics, and society.

I’m still sorry to have reacted in a very negative way about when I heard why someone (in their 50′s) would not vote. After stating “they’re all the same”, they then said they couldn’t vote anyway because their religion prevented it. Their religion is clearly a western religion, which despite appearances, is staunchly democratic in principle, so I can’t understand how this can be created in all seriousness within a western and democratic society. In what way does a religion have any right to restrict the rights and liberties of an individual? I can understand abstinence from the usual (adultery, theft, etc. is generally looked down upon), but exercising a civil right? I don’t think so.

I watched Blitz Street on Channel 4 yesterday and it highlighted the lengths to which people before us have gone to secure and maintain the right to exercise their role in a democratic process. That said, with the parties essentially fighting over what amounts to be a few hundred votes identified by their researchers as being likely to determine the success or otherwise of their individual parties, it i understandable why the vast majority of people feel disenfranchised from the process.

So what’s the solution?

We could take Australia’s policy and make it illegal to abstain from the process. Does this solve the problem, though? The fines are small so are an inconvenience at best, and it just means the voting papers will be spoilt or random selections be made just to “tick the box”. No, what is needed is a message to the incumbent and opposition that the present candidates are not acceptable. Such an option would be “None of the above”. By marking in “None of the above”, you will be specifically identifying your disatisfaction with the process or the candidate and not encoding this view into actions such as spoiling your paper or voting for a ridiculous option, such as Screaming Lord Such. Based on the results, the Electoral Services will be able to identify whether there is a dissatisfaction by region, demographic, or otherwise or parties may use the results to drive forward reform in constitutional processes.

How to crush Royal Mail … if they don’t manage it themselves

I dislike militant workers with a passion. Fair enough, employee rights are important but there is a much wider issue here. Paralysing a country by calling on strikes to pull your staff out of sorting offices, railway infrastructure, fuel depots, etc. is unnacceptable and shows the ugly face of Socialism. Many of these strikes are due to pensions and “modern working practices”. By “modern working practices”, read “essential changes to remain competitive in a challenging marketplace and maybe doing a little more work or at a different time”. As far as I am concerned, if you are employed, you do what your manager says. If you don’t like it, you know where the door is … in this recession there are millions that would love to be able to pass you on the way out.

Royal Mail are currently being held to ransom by the CWU, who cite modern working prcatices and concerns with the pension fund as being reasons for the strike. Maybe if you read this slowly you might understand what they cannot, I assume because it is quite a complex proposition. The Royal Mail is in a highly competitive marketplace, is extremely expensive to operate and must find efficiencies to fund the pension fund. By walking out at a particularly difficult time of year, the CWU are actually making the lot of Royal Mail and its employees worse. So if they don’t manage to crush Royal Mail, here are some ideas you should try yourself in this modern technology-driven world that the CWU haven’t quite grasped

•Favour Internet shopping sites that use couriers to deliver your order. John Lewis is one example. If they don’t email their support desk to ask why they don’t provide the option.
•LoveFilm is an excellent way to access thousands of rented movies, but it requires the postal system to work. Until the UK catches up to the US and more providers get on board with internet-distributed movies, LoveFilm currently have a beta Watch-on-line service which allows you to watch films as part of your subscription, and for free for high-end subscriptions. Or, use XBox Video Marketplace (or your preferred console, if available) to download and watch films.
•Don’t send letters, postcards or cards. Use Facebook and Email.
•Don’t invoice your customers using paper, send invoices by email or by fax.
•Needless to say, don’t use Venda/ to purchase products from the Isle of Man. If you’re a resident, go down to Strand Street. If not, go support a real shop and tell them you’re shopping “in the physical” because of Royal Mail’s strike.
•Many companies now offer electronic billing. Turn on e-billing and log into their web-site to check your account and make your payments.
•If you have bulk mailing to do, send it using a competitor, such as UKMail. They still need the Royal Mail to get to the door, but a message will be sent that strike action is incompatible with current market and economic forces.

The frustrating thing about this action is that this will not just work to crush Royal Mail, it will create serious issues for the smaller online retailers that operate small web sites or services under the eBay or Amazon marketplace schemes. What is a great way for people at home to make good use of their time and work from home and contribute to the economy will be extinguished if this action continues.

Rediscovering Robert Newman

I’ve been reminiscing lately about the comedy talents of The Mary Whitehouse Experience. The Mary Whitehouse Experience was a radio show, then a TV show which featured David Baddiel, Robert Newman, Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis. This was in the late 80s/early 90s and played a key role in my development of my tastes in comedy, satire, irony and sarcasm (thanks Ray). You won’t be able to get anything of the show other than on You Tube, as the four guys fell out – big-time. I began to wonder what they’re doing now. David Baddiel became an even more smug git, briefly joining with Robert Newman for a sell out tour then jumping in with Frank Skinner – an altogether unfunny man next to whom David looks funny again. Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt had a brief patch working with Jaspar Carrott on his sketch show and they currently work on the satirical Now Show on Radio 4 (check out the podcast). Hugh Dennis, also appears on Mock The Week and hundreds of adverts in a voice-over capacity.

That just leaves Rob Newman. Of the four, he is definitely (for me) the funniest. But he did sort of go underground. I’ve been looking around and I’ve realised he’s taken his satire onto the next step by producing political videos regarding relevant issues such as climate change and war.

Take his History of Oil.

Part 1: Rob talks of the naivety of the US imposing democracy in the middle east.

Part 2: How the UK and US combined to install the Shah in the previously secular democracy of Iran in order to gain access to oil.

Part 3: The real reason of the First World War, that of the Berlin to Baghdad railway even to the extent that Basra saw the first deployment of British troops for the war.

Part 4: How did Tony Blair escape trial for war crimes?

Part 5: Since 1971, the US has been the world’s biggest debtor because all oil transactions have to be conducted in US Dollars.

Part 6: How the unexpected success of the Euro put fear of major economic adjustment into the US Federal Reserve when the world (through OPEC) threaten to switch oil transactions to Euros.

Part 7:

Part 8: How after 2010 the world will have run out of net energy which will cause economic failure and how the Nuclear cycle creates 75% of the carbon emissions as coal-fired power stations.

Part 9: Transport is not the only consumer of oil. Food is more responsible for oil consumption and is arguably more important than getting from A to B. Also, how the House Sub-committee for Foreign Policy report titled “Oil Fields for Military Objectives” became “An American plan for Democracy”.

This may or may not be based on fact, satire or just comedy. You may not agree with Rob’s (or my) assertions. That is immaterial, but what Rob and comics like him do is essential. They take the time to look into the established stories of world events and help people identify for themselves the real reasons behind events. This is democracy, and it’s also democracy that we need to keep hold of despite attempts to clamp down on it through legislation.

Jacqui Smith: “I know, we’ll create a huge database”

The UK is facing a number of challenges that span professional bodies and
disciplines, which with good intentions, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is sure
she can solve.

Helping prevent child abuse

Child abuse is a horrendous tragedy that has recently seen a number of nasty
headlines. The Baby P scandal was a disturbing case that exposed many weaknesses in the various professional bodies that come into contact with families regarded as being “at risk”.

Jacqui Smith: “I know, we’ll create a huge database”

The joining together of separate databases held by the police, the courts, social
workers, teachers and the health service to create a “super database” containing
details on 11 million children under 18 years of age is believed to be illegal,
falling foul of the Data Protection Act. Projected cost: £200 million.

CCTV CamerasHelping reduce domestic violence

Domestic violence is the invisible abuse that partners suffer in silence.
There can be little worse betrayal than being abused by the one you love, and it
can prove very frightening – often so frightening that it becomes almost too
terrifying to seek help.

Jacqui Smith: “I know, we’ll create a huge database”

The generation of a database of perpetrators has been criticised as a gimmick
and caused Jacqui Smith to be publicy shouted down by activists. There are a significant number of people wondering why more effort is not put in addressing weaknesses in police powers who feel powerless in such situations.

Solving crimes retrospectively using advances in DNA

Some horrendous crimes have been solved thanks to the advances made in DNA
analysis, which provides convincing scientific proof of a suspect’s guilt. As
technology develops, and our understanding grows, we need to be able to utilise
our increased knowledge to help solve past crimes.

Jacqui Smith: “I know, we’ll create a huge database”

The process of having your fingerprints taken at the police station on arrest
is well known. Until recently, merely being arrested required you to submit a
DNA sample for entering into the National DNA database. If you were later released, your sample was not, instead remaining “on file” – just in case.

Modern communications may be used to organise terrorist acts

Clearly, terrorism remains a potent risk to the society, and it has been seen
that our intelligence services have struggled to keep up with the technological
advances brought by communications technologies such as mobile phones and the

Jacqui Smith: “I know, we’ll create a huge database”

Forcing ISPs, telecommunications operators and related services to provide
details of communications to the government for recording in a huge central
will allow government to be able to access details of communications and trace activity regarded as suspicious. I’m sure their IT systems would be up to the task of indexing such a massive database.

Tracking people coming in an out of the country reduces terrorism/illegal immigration

The huge number of people coming into the country and leaving the country
presents immigration officials and security services  problems in identifying
individuals who may pose a risk to the United Kingdom or one of its

Jacqui Smith: “I know, we’ll create a huge database”

Going through a UK airport will now see you photographed and monitored from
booking to plane, with this information potentially being shared across country
boundaries to your intended destination. The project, known as “Semaphore
will store passenger movements within a central database, even those of 6

Keeping track of civilians will help prevent terrorist attacks

The globalisation of the economy and increased migration of individuals
increases the United Kingdom’s exposure to terror attacks such as September11th
or the attacks on Madrid.

Jacqui Smith: “I know, we’ll create a huge database”

Creating a new National Identity Card system, over and above the existing Passport obligations of civilians, will help authorities prevent individuals intent on attacking the United Kingdom and entering it illegally. EVen though Spain already has an ID card system, this did not prevent the Madrid attacks.

I wonder if Jacqui Smith realises she is a member of the same government that
is responsible for the disastorous NHSPfIT programme designed to streamline the
IT services of the NHS, the crashing of a number of systems, massive overspend
and terrible planning of a number of high-profile IT projects. I wonder if she can recall the extensive “misplacing” of data that occured in 2008, also under her government. I wonder what makes her think that more databases, more lines crossed in people’s liberties and an increased feeling of distrust can do to help her government remain a tenable prospect for 2010 onwards. No, she is just as misguided as the Prime Minister that went to an illegal war and the “other” Prime Minister who can’t say “sorry”. Her one and only solution is a reflection of the ineptidude of the government’s IT policy. Hopefully she’ll fall over before it becomes too late for a replacement government to be able to reverse such damaging changes to our constitition.

Heathrow 3rd runway

In the last few years there has been an increasing row about whether Heathrow
Airport should get a 3rd runway. Heathrow is the busiest airport in the UK and
certainly one of the busiest, if not the busiest in Europe. It is, understandably, essential to London being seen as a hub of commerce and finance. However, its size and owner are quickly being seen as being unreliable, inefficient, anti-competitive and environmentally incompatible. Heathrow Terminal 5 was a disaster, resulting in massive baggage confusion and delays. So, it was with a sense of inevitable frustration when the 3rd runway was given the formal go ahead by the Government.

I’ve joined the Greenpeace Airplot scheme to help try and stop it, and I have
written the following to the government which I have sent to Number 10 via
Greenpeace’s site. If you want to submit your own and join the Airplot for
yourself, visit the Greenpeace

Dear Mr. Brown,

I would like to make my profound disappointment and frustration at your authorisation of the 3rd runway at Heathrow clear. It seems to me, and it seems much of the UK if various polls are to be believed (The Guardian and The Evening Standard, that this decision is
not only unpopular, but undemocratic and highly confusing.

I understand the business benefits that expansion of an airport can consolidate or increase London’s position in the world economy, we are after all, an island. However, that is difficult to reconcile with the current environmental requirements. It seems that the government are complicit with an aviation industry which is able to arrange itself in a highly influential manner to affect government policy in a way no other industry body
is able to do.

Airports are massive greenhouse gas generators and their expansion must be controlled at all costs. Your environmental policy and requirements you have signed up to are incompatible with any runway expansion, which makes schemes like this hypocritical. You are not leaving a super-airport and stable economy for our future generations, you are leaving a world of smog and pollution. No runway is environmentally clean. Your representations that only “clean” planes will use the facility is not convincing in the slightest. It seems you have “bought off” your fellow ministers such as Ed Milliband by adding this clause. The only “clean plane” is no plane.

Indeed, the way that your government has proceeded regarding decisions such as this, it is highly likely and almost inevitable that any rules, guidelines or quotas you will set in place for environmental, noise and economic impact will just be quietly weakened hoping the voting public don’t realise. It is ridiculous to think that any government would actively close a runway if quotas are not met, and I find it insulting to think that you believe we would believe that this would occur.

I notice form the promotion of the scheme that the carbon footprint that will be generated by this scheme hardly takes account of car use. This country is full with cars, and yet we continue to add more. A massive airport will generate a massive amount of cars. Your answer of opening hard shoulders on motorwars running into Heathrow is hardly a solution.

What Britain needs desperately to meet its environmental commitments, control its road use, reduce domestic air travel (thereby freeing up capacity in existing airports) and reduce the social and economic gap between the North and South of the UK is commitment and investment to rail. The benefits of Rail are as clear as clean air.

Rail is the most efficient and clean method of mass transit available, and is clean at the point of delivery. It is the safest method of mass transit available. But, your running of the rail industry is incompatible with reality. While other countries actively believe that the state has a key part to play in the rail industry as both a backer and as a subject of policy, the Labour Government appears to be micro-managing the rail franchises while reducing public subsidy for the railway. High Speed 1, the high speed rail link between St. Pancras and The Channel Tunnel proves that we can create High
Speed rail to European specifications and this must be expanded. High Speed 2, a
high speed line between London and Manchester/Leeds and possibly beyond is
essential. This will reduce motorway use, increase the number of paths for
freight to be carried by rail, reduce domestic flights and bring our cities
closer together. The Conservative government has committed to developing such a
rail link. You idea of a “Heathrow Hub”, while a welcome addition to any
transport infrastructure, is just sugar. Such a hub could be argued as being too
late anyway, otherwise there wouldn’t be the traffic issues seen on the roads in
to Heathrow.

I am pleased to add that I have also joined Greenpeace’s Airplot scheme, and will be delighted to add to the difficulties that you will doubtless experience over this unpopular and undemocratic decision.

Your execution of this scheme has been highly questionable. You have been complicit with a highly organised aviation industry, have not honoured democratic principles by having Parliamentary debates around the issue, have clearly somehow convinced your own ministers to change their opposition to the scheme and are riding rough shod over voters’ homes, businesses and future generations. I applaud John McDonnell’s demonstration of what democracy has become by removing the Ceremonial Mace from its position, He is right to believe that tricky decisions are increasingly made in private
cabinet meetings, a practice introduced by another Prime Minister responsible for unpopular, and later proved to be incorrect decisions, Tony Blair. While I am living in the Isle of Man, I will still be eligible to vote in the UK elections which are already overdue. I will be voting for policy, and that policy will be whoever comes up with a commitment to the environment and rail.

Best regards,
Nathan J Pledger

Chip-in-Bin nonsense

I don’t understand people’s resistance to theChip-in-Bin scheme being
developed as an idea to control landfill, reduce the throw-away society and
increase propensity of households to recycle. The tabloid papers say it is a
“spy in your bin” and that it erodes civil liberties. Nonsense! The chip is
essentially an electronically encoded reference number. It could easily be a
barcode, but probably isn’t because a chip is more secure and resilient in the
rough environment experienced by your average wheely-bin. It does not erode
civil liberties, as it does not know what you have thrown away and it
does not identify you as a person where data sensitivity is paramount – unlike
the proposed ID card which seems to have gained more weight, possibly due to a
reduced level of propoganda from the tabloids.

To me, there are three key benefits which people are not getting:

  • If the scheme is truly fair, shouldn’t the refuse handling portion of the
    council tax bill be reduced? Therefore, lower Council Tax
  • Customers now have some control over how much they are charged, It isn’t defined exclusively in the council chamber, it can be affected by your own habits. If you pay too much, think about reducing how much you throw away.
  • We improve the environment by reducing our dependancy on landfill.

There are of course down-sides. People are averse to making extra effort to
imrpove the lot of themselves and others, and especially when it costs, even
though it should (in a fair world) be cheaper). The potential for fly-tipping
would doubtless increase, for example, and no-one wants that.