Friday, 28 November 2008
Meanwhile, Douglas Carswell MP blames Commons speaker Michael Martin for allowing Green's office to be searched and says he will call for him to go.
What he was actually doing, as any good investigative journalist would know, is obtaining information that the government had suppressed of an extremely embarrassing nature that ministers would rather not see published.And indeed, journalists are also at risk under the same law.
What an astonishing piece of spin, to propose a dodge that it thinks will get Heathrow expansion through in spite of the environmental issues. If the government did choose to take this route, whether BAA accepted it or not would be irrelevant.
Greenpeace says that "BAA's arrogance knows no bounds" and I tend to agree.
I was at the Environment Agency piece on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, I did this piece for newstatesman.com, pointing out that ministers are still not quite singing from the same hymn sheet on Heathrow and air quality. The most interesting thing was that when Hilary Benn apparently went off-message, the potentially offending words were struck from the record.
On Wednesday and Thursday, I was at the information tribunal to hear the government's appeal against the information commissioner's order to release cabinet minutes around the attorney general's Iraq war advice. It emerged that the minutes may "prove the absence of sufficient discussion".
Monday, 24 November 2008
In a speech tomorrow the government’s own green watchdog will increase pressure on ministers not to approve the expansion [of Heathrow].
[Chris] Smith will tell his agency’s annual conference: “The government has committed itself to rigorous targets to emissions 80% by 2050, which now include reduce CO2 aviation and shipping. It is impossible to see how they would be achieved if the current plans for a third runway go ahead.I'm at the conference today and Smith said no such thing. He didn't mention Heathrow. Maybe he'll say it tomorrow...
It was always clear that the government would seek to claim that jobs are being protected or created and that they would like to get credit for it. So how naive is this?
Ministers believes the report will be a defining moment for Labour, and that the government will receive credit from voters for acting to stem a looming recession, rather than be blamed for taking state borrowing to record levels.
Friday, 21 November 2008
Well, first Aslet comes up with the usual argument that it's not speed that causes accidents but bad drivers. Then he brings up the circular claim that road safety measures have alienated the poor motorist:
Show the British motorist a plausible idea for improving road safety, and he'll laugh in its face. He has lost faith in the system.The fact that the Telegraph, the Mail, Top Gear et al repeatedly churn out this sort of nonsense has nothing to do with it, presumably.
Finally, Aslet says;
on speed, part of me rebels against a regime whose priorities are so badly skewed. We all know which aspect of motoring is most rigorously patrolled: parking. Around here, you'll be given a ticket within minutes of overstaying your meter. That isn't about safety, but money.So even if banning speeding drivers can't possibly about money, the fact that you get fined for overstaying your parking means that it is, after all. I am truly lost for words to describe this childish self-indulgent nonsense.
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Rather worryingly, CLG has now scrapped the idea of a national (England) estimate of the number of rough sleeping after the headline figure refused to drop in the last five years. Many of the measures trailed in CLG's press release are not stood up by its "action plan".
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Labour is wary of fuelling speculation after the debacle of not calling an election last year, but said if polls went in the same direction over the winter, an election in June, the date of the European elections, becomes a serious option.If that isn't speculation, I don't know what is.
It's good that the paper is reminding people that the Inquiry should not just be about the debacle the followed the invasion but the scandal of how Britain got into an illegal war.
Unlike the BBC, the Guardian doesn't try to diminish Bingham's signficance:
Lord Bingham is not just any old lawyer. He is the most senior judge of the modern era. He is regarded by many as its finest legal mind. Though Lord Bingham only retired a few weeks ago, he has been at the pinnacle of English law-making for a decade and a half and has clearly been pondering the war's legality for years.Strangely though, the editorial, which is about "time" and refers to the forthcoming withdrawal of troops, doesn't suggest that the latter will allow the inquiry to take place.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
I argue that Bingham has damned Blair, Straw and Goldsmith even while assuming that they acted in good faith. But it's quite clear that they set out a year before the war to create a legal justification - but failed to do so.
On the issue of the promised Iraq Inquiry, the government will still not say whether the withdrawal of most British troops by the middle of next year will allow it to take place.
PA, which has no axe to grind says:
Legal advice given to Tony Blair prior to the invasion of Iraq was fundamentally "flawed", a former senior law lord has said.The BBC says something almost identical:
Legal advice given to Tony Blair by the attorney general prior to the Iraq war was fundamentally "flawed," a former law lord has claimed.So the BBC demotes Lord Bingham and decides that, whether he was a law lord or not, his opinion only has the status of a claim. It systematically seeks to undermine anything that shows the government in a bad light.
Monday, 17 November 2008
Reid breaks his silence to back Brown
Sunday, 16 November 2008
The shadow Chancellor was forced to defend himself after Labour aides and small business organisations accused him of talking down sterling despite a convention that politicians do not predict currency collapses. Kenneth Clarke, the man some MPs now want to replace Osborne, had to ride to his rescue, insisting his words were 'perfectly sensible'.So Kenneth Clarke not agreeing with Osborne is a point against him? It seems the only pressure is coming from "Labour aides" and Stephen Alambritis from the Federation of Small Businesses and Labour councillor, who warned:
'It is important that politicians rally together at times like these and do not use terms like "run on the pound".'Good point, let's not say it.
I can't find anything in the article to justify this:
'Baffled' Lib Dems join attackOsborne has a point when he says:
behind-the-scenes spinning from the Prime Minister and his entourage in America is fuelling speculation that the government is planning to borrow recklessly for a big, unfunded tax con.
Friday, 14 November 2008
The shadow Chancellor is being blamed by Tory backbenchers for a lacklustre response by the Opposition to the economic crisis. They admit it is not all his fault but he is an easier target than Mr Cameron after being damaged by the "yachtgate" affair in which he was accused of seeking a Tory donation from Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch.But:
Despite all the rumblings, Cameron aides insist Mr Osborne will not be moved from his Treasury brief. "They are joined at the hip," said one frontbencher. A strategist added: "Nobody should underestimate how close they are. It is a very strong partnership – like Blair and Brown, but without the tensions, rivalries and rows."Also in the Indy, Michael Brown says that Cameron should ditch Osborne. But I didn't get past the sub-headline:
If they want to be taken seriously, how about Redwood?
Thursday, 13 November 2008
But - as I said earlier - don't forget the noise nuisance.
Meanwhile, the five Plane Stupid activists who climbed onto the roof of parliament and unfurled anti-expansion banners have been found guilty. The activists were publicising the fact that the Department for Transport had colluded with Heathrow owner BAA to fix its figures. That was mentioned several times inside parliament on Tuesday.
The idea of filling a newspaper with "all the news we hope to print" is an interesting one. But aren't a lot of papers full of speculation wishful thinking and, well, made up stuff already?
But there is one environmental constraint which will apply very quickly, which is mandatory under EU law, and which cannot be circumvented. That is the EU targets on nitrogen oxide which come into force in 2010, just over a year away. Nox limits are already being breached in London now, and frankly it is ridiculous to pretend, as the government seems to, that increasing by 50% the number of flight movements at Heathrow from 480,000 a year to 720,000 – equivalent to bolting on to Heathrow another airport the size of Gatwick – will not push nox and noise levels sky-high above what is lawfully permitted.He adds:
I contacted Stavros Dimas, the EU commissioner for the environment, to ask him to investigate. He wrote back to me last July saying: "Technical reports underpinning the Heathrow expansion suggest that nitrogen-limit values near Heathrow will be significantly exceeded in 2010, the year in which those limit values become mandatory, and that this will be the case even after 2015."It now becomes clear that Meacher was the recipient of the letter cited in this Guardian story in August.
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
The piece also reveals the difference between what Department for Transport officials were saying behind the scenes about possible mitigation measures - "let's not bother" - and what they said in the official consultation.
Melissa Fleming, an IAEA spokeswoman, said:
"We regret that people are trying to prejudge the IAEA's technical assessment... We are, however, accustomed to these kinds of efforts to hype and undermine the process before every meeting of the IAEA board."This could be very significant, although the IAEA would look a bit silly complaining about leaks and then confirming/denying them.
The IAEA did not challenge the substance of Monday's revelations about the uranium traces. The concern is that the leak of confidential information could jeopardise future Syrian cooperation.
As usual, Black mentions in his article that:
Israel is an undeclared nuclear power and, unlike Syria, has never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Poor Hoon is virtually alone on the front bench, with no cabinet colleagues, e.g. environment secretary Hilary Benn, at his side.
Hoon showed just how much he has failed to understand the issue when he challenged his tory counterpart Theresa Villiers to say where the inevitable increase in aviation will take place if not at Heathrow. What he can't grasp is that many people don't want aviation to expand inevitably and inexorably and think that if it is constricted by a lack of capacity that will be a good thing. Adding extra capacity to allow aviation to expand is just mindless.
Chris Mullin has just put him right, saying that sooner or later politicians are going to have to say no to the aviation industry as it continues to demand infinite expansion.
Dimas told the Standard:
"It is critical that Member States respect EU legislation which is designed to protect the environment and the health of our citizens."Nicholas Cecil has done well to get this warning out of Dimas at this time, with increasing evidence that the UK is planning to "fudge" the EU air quality directive, in spite of what Hilary Benn said last week.
Peter Wilby's analysis is equally harsh:
He argues, with truly astonishing sophistry, that "the freedom to write about scandal" is essential to "the democratic process" because, otherwise, newspapers like his wouldn't sell copies and therefore wouldn't exist.Dacre says that "it is the duty of the media to take an ethical stand." Pick up the Daily Mail and you will see that his idea of ethics includes running stories that are, at best, distorted and, at worst, plain wrong.
Monday, 10 November 2008
apart from allowing the corrupt and the crooked to sleep easily in their beds is, I would argue, undermining the ability of mass-circulation newspapers to sell newspapers in an ever more difficult market,"Dacre's slightly more sophisticated argument is that tabloid papers need to include sexual scandals to get people to buy papers that "devote considerable space to reporting and analysis of public affairs".
Is the Daily Mail really relying on a public interest case for its existence, based on its analysis of public affairs?
Sunday, 9 November 2008
also believe that David Cameron has allowed his party to get on the "wrong side of the argument" by officially opposing the plansOnce again a leading journalist uses the "believe" construction to put forward the government's spin on a topic. Hennessy also claims:
Mr Hoon, backed by Gordon Brown, is confident he has seen off objections to the runway raised by some cabinet ministers, including Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader.Hoon seems to be short of friendly newspapers to plant this type of story as the Sunday Times runs a leader against Heathrow expansion.
There have, however, been further arguments put forward as to why he shouldn't get the award, such as his decision to move to Switzerland for tax reasons and the debate over whether someone who drives a car can be considered a sportsman.I'm not sure where those arguments have been put forward but I certainly agree with the Telegraph that tax exiles are reprehensible.
Friday, 7 November 2008
said the need for an expanded Heathrow had become more important over the past few months because the UK will need a bigger hub airport when the economy recovers.So the recession and consequent drop in demand for air travel is a reason to expand capacity at Heathrow, even though it is unlikely that flights would be able to increase (under "mixed mode" operation) until 2012. But:
Walsh added that a 2% cut in winter flights at Heathrow this year did not undermine the case for adding a new runway to an airport that is 98.5% full throughout the year. "There is no link to the third runway. This is a short-term capacity reduction that reflects a short-term reduction in demand. A third runway is for the long term."There's a mistake in the Guardian piece by the way. The early day motion has been signed (at present) by 121 MPs, not 40. The latter number is/was the number of Labour MPs who have signed.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on the effects on air quality in the area around Heathrow of the proposed third runway.But Grogan didn't ask Benn about noise. Is Benn saying: don't forget the noise John?
I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues about air quality and noise in relation to transport, including plans around Heathrow.
In the Scotsman, the "myth-busting" report is fisked and heavily criticised by green groups, including Friends of the Earth Scotland. Its chief executive Duncan McLaren, who presumably doesn't run a Formula 1 team, says:
"Far from 'myth busting', the claims in this report comprise a litany of misleading assertions, half truths and straw men. I don't think I've seen such a dodgy dossier since the one used to justify war on Iraq."Perhaps the dodgiest claim is this one:
Building roads will not have a significant effect on climate change, so long as wider policy measures are also introduced. Road building on its own can slightly increase carbon dioxide emissions, but it could also reduce emissions by up to 10 per cent if introduced alongside road-pricing.So building new roads is green if we subsequently price people off them. But if road pricing is such a good idea, why not do it anyway?
Here's another top claim, with the Green Party's counterclaim:
RAC: The construction industry can accommodate a substantial increase in road building.Indeed. Still, the Express agrees that motorists are hard done by.
GREEN: The construction industry would no doubt deliver any level of road-building required.
Thursday, 6 November 2008
CABINET minister Hilary Benn today warned against fudging pollution rules to allow a third runway at Heathrow.But the government's policy is not to ignore the rules, just to delay their implementation. Isn't that a fudge?
The Environment Secretary told the Commons that the Government had made it "very, very clear" that limits on harmful gases could not be ignored just to allow Heathrow to grow.
One of the issues I've mentioned is the tendency for the government to give money to campaigning or "third sector" organisations, which then engage in positive PR in support of their policies.
In this case the Town and Country Planning Association has been very quick to issue a press release supporting a draft policy planning statement on which the department for Communities and Local Government is supposedly consulting. As I say:
There is no suggestion of a conflict of interest here, as long as you accept that TCPA is paid to support the government policy and treat its pronouncements accordingly. It just doesn't seem right that the government's allies are trying to influence a formal consultation process before anyone else has seen the documents.
Political blogs are written by people with disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisyAnd spin, Hazel. Still, at least she said it on the record.
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Here is the report that gave me the idea.
Wikileaks are unhappy about this and have posted the before and after versions of Bright's blog.
In the censored version, Bright removed the titles of various Guardian and Observer articles:
Here is the full list of the six:
- "Labour blocks extradition of Iraqi tycoon" Observer, 2 February 2003
- "Billionaire linked to Labour arrested in London" Guardian, 2 April 2003
- "So, Norman, any regrets this time?" Observer, 6 April 2003
- "Tycoon in quiz over ties to Labour" Observer, 6 April 2003
- "Politics of sleaze" Observer, 16 November 2003
- "MP questions Iraq role of Briton tainted over Elf"(this has also been titled "British fraudster to profit from Iraq contract")Observer, 16 November 2003
The most cynical explanation, which I have heard buzzing around in the past few days, is simply that ministers who know they have lost the next election are cosying up to the business interests that may help them out in the private sector afterwards.Yesterday, jossc wrote something very similar on the Greenpeace blog:
The cynical answer is that Labour know they've already lost the next election and are cosying up to industries that will employ them once they're out of government...Perhaps Jackie has been talking to Joss, who is presumably Joss Garman. On the New Statesman today, Garman approvingly quotes Ashley:
It's surprising that it's taken this long for any serious Labour dissent over this to become apparent, especially when, to quote Jackie Ashley, "a swath of Labour ministers and MPs can expect to lose their seats if Heathrow's third runway is given the go-ahead."All very circular.
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
The ability to kill everyone in sight and disobey the orders of elected officials pursuing realist agendas is totally out of place in the multi-polar and highly unstable foreign policy environment of today.I did find the plot a bit unlikely - and the "realist" element quite unrealistic. The main premise was that the US and UK would let a shadowy international conspiracy have its way because it suited them. A bit unlikely, especially when it becomes clear that the shadowy international conspiracy is (unsurprisingly) trying to pull off a con - quite a small one in the grand scheme of things. Do they really think they'll get away with it? More than once?
If you've seen the film, perhaps you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, I hope I've not spoilt it.
Monday, 3 November 2008
Jackie Ashley wades in with a suggestion that Gordon Brown will back the third runway to show that he is on the side of business during a recession.
Briefings over the past few days suggest that Gordon Brown and Geoff Hoon, the transport secretary, will ride roughshod over the critics. They want to push through approval of the new runway so that when the Tories come to power, it's too late to cancel. "We have to show that we are on the side of business," says one minister.Ashley thinks Gordon Brown believes this is clever politics.
He thinks that in a recession, the party which seems most pro-business will gain. As deep fear grips the electorate over unemployment and bankruptcy, green arguments about the way we live, about pollution and climate change, will seem merely namby-pamby and irrelevant. If Labour commits itself to job-creating grand projects, and the Tories are forced to promise to try to halt them, then it is David Cameron who will suddenly look silly and old-fashioned.This may be unfair but, after 42 days amongst other issues, it's a sad reflection on Brown that people still think he makes big decisions just to wrongfoot the tories.
Saturday, 1 November 2008
The report also says:
The decision will be announced before the end of the year, and could come as soon as next month.As it's now November, before the end of the year does really mean next month at the latest, doesn't it?