What next for Labour?

Jeremy_CorbynSo the pundits got it wrong. 

Jeremy won an overall majority of first-preference votes – an outcome I have predicted since July.

How did I know and why didn’t the media pundits?

My experience of the May general election was voters did not see any real difference between Labour and Tories. Voters wanted to vote for something positive.

People are fed up with all conventional politics and welcomed Jeremy for his honesty and commitment. His first act, on becoming Leader, has been to join the “Refugees Welcome” demonstration in London. This is a good augury for the next few years.

Could Labour win the next General Election (in 2020)?  Most certainly!

But, to do so, the hundreds of thousands of new members must feel welcome and Labour must work with the Green Party and Plaid Cymru and the SNP – rather than dilute its anti-Tory message by tribal warfare against potential allies.

All four parties should cooperate in a campaign to persuade the 3-4 million eligible but unregistered voters to register for all future elections. This is essential if the Tories are to be defeated.

Labour could stand aside in a dozen or so constituencies where these parties have a better prospect of defeating the Tories – and the Green Party (in particular) need not contest (literally) hundreds of unwinnable seats but, instead, give its backing to the best anti-Tory candidate in each constituency.

We are living in interesting times and must seize this opportunity.

Opencasting and Land Reclamation

Living by The British, as I have done for 36 years, I am very aware that Torfaen has not achieved the government target to clear all derelict land by the Year 2000.

The primary fault for this lies with those Councillors who, in the 1970s, effectively gave away the then Council-owned land to private speculators who, ever since, have bought and sold the land for ever-increasing prices but done nothing to prevent the historic artefacts and buildings deteriorating.

We are now faced with the situation that HSBC, having foolishly advanced £5 million to the last bunch of speculators, are demanding that they receive something close to this sum as compensation. But just because HSBC were conned into paying such a sum (its true value is, if anything, negative as it will require public money for anything worthwhile to be done), that is no reason why public money should be wasted to help them out.

Meanwhile, another bunch of get-rich-quick entrepreneurs have resubmitted their proposals to extract 350,000 tonnes of coal from Varteg Hill whilst providing us with nothing of long-term benefit to the community.

I chair the residents committee for The British and have been active in the “No Opencast” campaign for Varteg. With the support of our excellent Assembly Member, Lynne Neagle, we have succeeded so far in preventing the despoliation and disruption that would be caused by opencasting here. [Note my commendation of our Labour AM – if elected as your MP I hope this cooperation will continue.]

Frack off

As mentioned earlier, I am a chemical engineer and a Partner in a small Consulting Engineering practice that does its best to develop eco-friendly solutions to various problems. Unlike many of my friends in the “green movement”, I am not ideologically anti-technology but, on the contrary, all my training and work experience directs me to seek rational engineering solutions wherever possible.

The problem we have in Cameron’s Britain is that decisions are made because powerful lobbyists have the ear of the Prime Minister and press for solutions that make them money – often regardless of the consequences for the environment. The recent revelations about Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind offering to arrange meetings with government decision-makers show how far down the road of corruption we have travelled with this government.

healthyeconomyI don’t subscribe to view that fracking is so bad that it is inconceivable that it can be made safe – with a serious effort to minimise all possible side-effects, almost any technology can be made safer (maybe at too high a cost). The problem is not technology as such but that vested interests push for money-making technologies and cut corners.

A classic example of this was at Fukushima where the design engineers knew full well about the risks of tsunamis but, to reduce pumping costs, lowered the base of the plant and increased the risk of damage from a tsunami.

However, living as we do in a real world where decisions are made to maximise profits rather than safeguard the environment, I do agree wholeheartedly that the fracking companies (and their friend David Cameron) should not be given a go ahead to proceed with their plans. They have been whittling away at our democratic rights, through the planning process, to object to eco-dubious proposals.*

So long as we have a government in power at the beck and call of big business, we are right and the green movement is right to be wary of any new technology that involves a potential threat to the environment.

* For example, in the fag end of the 2010-2015 Parliament (25th March) the government has asked parliament to extend the categories of “Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs)” contained in the Planning Act 2008 to “geological disposal facilities to store radioactive nuclear waste”. This would remove the democratic right of the public to say no the dumping of radioactive wastes underground – whether under Cumbria or anywhere else.

A Greenprint for Torfaen

“Greenprint for the valleys” is the title of a Plaid Cymru discussion document initiated by Leanne Wood before she became its Leader.  It advocates a community-based bottom-up approach to developing and greening the valleys that, in my opinion, is well ahead of anything I have seen from any other political party. You can obtain a hard copy directly from Plaid Cymru but here is a web link to it.

http://www.plaid.cymru/uploads/Articles_and_reports/Greenprint_Cynllun_Gwyrdd.pdf

The key feature of this approach is to assist by bringing sustainable jobs to people where they live now – rather than, as successive governments have done, allowed jobs to be lost in the valleys and forcing people to commute to Cardiff, Newport and even Bristol for work. Rather than spend £millions on roads to and through these already crowded urban areas, we need investment in the valleys to make our communities more viable and to reduce commuting.

Torfaen is a microcosm of these problems – with planners forced to support building on green fields in the south rather than regenerate rundown existing communities in the north. So long as government takes its cue from big business, intent on maximising their profits, this situation will continue.

Barrage or lagoon?

Due to its huge tidal range, the Severn Estuary is very suitable for power generation. seGenArrayOneRaisedThe most eco-friendly way to use tides is to place free-standing turbines (pictured) around the coast (to pre-distribute the generated electricity and to minimise the downtime). But there’s no quick financial return from such a widely dispersed investment.

Big business prefers a monstrous barrage across the Severn Estuary – ignoring the damage to the marine environment and its need for more fuel-fired power stations to cover its 30-40% downtime. That’s a definite ‘no-no’.

More enlightened business interests are promoting eco-friendly tidal lagoons with the first in Swansea Bay. A second tidal lagoon is proposed between Cardiff and Newport as a follow up and, if the Swansea lagoon is up to expectations, I anticipate that I will support it.