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Tatchell on the “New Green Deal”


Peter Tatchell, writing in the Grauniad today questions the efficacy of certain capital projects and whether a return to New Deal style policies would be of any benefit. Here is my response:

Love the maths here! The author is attempting to confuse with the £160 Billion figure as this “saving” is over 25 years. This equates to 6.4 Billion a year. Not chickenfeed, but neither is it quite as impressive as he makes it sound. We wouldn’t get it all at once as he implies later on in the piece!

I actually agree with him on one of his choices for the chop (ID Cards) but dismay at his attitude to the defence of the realm. Indeed, Defence of the Realm is one of the few things that a Government should actually be doing!

Tatchell does make a good point when he says:

The deficit is a serious problem. It is not right wing scaremongering to say that it needs to be cut. If ministers carry on borrowing, spending and drifting deeper into debt, they could eventually bankrupt the government.

Despite the knee-jerk protests of some trade unionists and left-wingers, efficiency savings and waste-cutting are possible and can help bring down public spending. The idea that all government expenditure is cost effective is nonsense. Every big bureaucracy breeds waste, including government departments, local councils, schools and hospitals.

I believe that has been the Tory point of view for a number of years, nay decades! He does, however, deviate slightly when he says:

Central and local government ought to offer financial rewards to employees who devise money-saving ideas that also maintain service delivery.

It’s called their Salary!!! They should, as a matter of course, be looking for ways of being more efficient and of saving the Taxpayer money.

He then gets on to the “Green” issue and states:

Currently, about 60% to 70% of energy is lost in conventional oil, gas and coal-fired power stations.

Well, let’s have more Nuclear Power please! It doesn’t blight the landscape and endanger birds or have such a large carbon foot print as Wind Turbines for instance. Oh, and it works when the wind isn’t blowing,

He also shows a total lack of understanding about engineering:

If the government cancelled defence contracts such as Trident and the Eurofighter, some of the engineering skills that would have been used to construct these weapons could be transferred, as part of the Green New Deal, to the construction of wind, tidal, wave, geothermal and hydro schemes to boost Britain’s renewable energy output.

At what point is any of the classified, secret information used in the design and construction of planes, missiles and the like going to have any relevance to building a wind turbine? Or actually be allowed to be used? How many of these brilliant engineers going to actually be available, given that non-UK weapons manufacturers will be fighting to get the expertise? Does he really think that an engineer who designs ground to air misslies – actually a rocket scientist would be as fulfilled, or indeed have the specific knowledge, to work on geothermal power generation?

At least he uses the word “could” when he says

Some of these alternative energy methods are not yet effective enough.

But assumes that they could be made so. He doesn’t tackle the problem of the wind nor blowing all the time…. actually Global Warming would solve that!

Finally, Mr T borders on the incredulous when he says:

This alternative economic strategy is mostly nothing new. It is essentially FDR 2.0. The New Deal worked in the 1930s. The Green New Deal can work in the 21st century. Over to you Gordon, David and Nick.

The article over at Wikipedia has an impartial take on whether it worked or not. As to “Over to Gordon, David or Nick” well.. it ain’t going to be Gordon or Nick is it!


Categories: Politics
  1. Peter Tatchell
    01/10/2009 at 02:27

    The main point surely is that I have suggested some big savings in government expenditure. Not everyone will agree that all the programmes I suggest should be cut. Fine. Not everyone will agree with my estimates of the savings that could be made. That’s fine too.

    Despite any such disagreements, the key fact is that substantial savings can be made without cutting important frontline public services. That point still stands, whatever our disageeements over precise savings.

    My approach seems more sound, sensible, coherent and compassionate than the cuts nonsense being touted by the big three parties.

    via Savage cuts without pain | Peter Tatchell | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

  2. 01/10/2009 at 02:29

    Again, kudos to Peter Tatchell for coming “below the line”. It is a welcome and refreshing change. Come on down Polly, the water’s lovely!

    I absolutely take his point that

    Despite any such disagreements, the key fact is that substantial savings can be made without cutting important front-line public services. That point still stands, whatever our disagreements over precise savings.

    I do, indeed, know that substantial savings and efficiencies could, should and must be made. Personally, as I may have ranted before, let’s cut out all the Outleach workers and non-jobs such as “Dignity at Work Officers” which surely must be an ironic joke on the holder of such a position (please see Guardian Jobs if you wish to apply – get them while they are still available)

    The only one of his list that I actually agree with is the ID Cards Database. Actually the NHS Database too as it never has a chance when the budget is constrained. The key to such a system is Bandwidth. Bandwidth and More Bandwidth – It’s a live multi-user database and needs as much as it can get! Sadly the Government seems to wish to rely on the very public and insecure internet. Needs an MPLS based private VPN system, or similar, to make it work and be acceptable. Oh and probaby a huge Citrix Server Farm.

  3. Dontmindme
    01/10/2009 at 09:16

    I agree, Peter is clearly being constructive, a trait that, despite his antics over the years (all publicity is good publicity after all), is one I have never doubted.

    Which makes me sorry to disagree with his fundamental point. As I understand the maths, the structural component of the deficit (according the treasury) is very large in its own right.

    Certainly he makes some good points, for example I disagree when Mr Tyke takes Peter to task for suggesting employees should receive rewards for suggesting money saving initiatives. Mr Tyke is deluding himself if he believes that local employees think they are paid to volunteer up ways of making their own job redundant!

    At £175bn, the deficit is 14% of GDP (thereabouts). The treasury believe that a staggering £140bn is “structural”, (i.e. long term not cyclical).

    Therefore very deep cuts indeed are required to address a number this big. Now of course future growth and fiscal drag will expand the tax take over time, so one does not have to save all £140bn, however annualised cuts in the many tens of billions are required.

    Its the word annualised that is the problem. The bulk of any saving for the The ID cards database is a one off saving, as are the Carriers, Trident et al. (The do have running costs once up and running, but these are small compared to the capital sums). There is much talk of assets sales of £75bn. I even heard of a plan to sell off the road network. Again this is one off. Selling assets at the bottom of a market smacks of desperation, not strategic thinking. Either way, everything being touted at the moment is not long term

    Once all the various sacred cows have been slaughtered, and once every last unnecessary paper clip has been eliminated, you will be left with the plain fact that 10’s of billions will have to come from a combination of benefits plus the salary and pension costs of government employees.

    And however you cut that cake, “front line” services and/or benefits will be affected.

    I am not making a moral judgement here on what is good or bad, Just saying the scale of the problem means this talk from both left and right of “protecting front line services” is hope at best, dissembling st worst.

  4. 02/10/2009 at 09:57

    Ah well, that’s not really politically acceptable is it… at least just before a General Election. No, what will happen is that Cameron will take over and discover that actually things are a great deal worse than Labour have been letting on! Huge black holes will be found making the requirements for cuts even more urgent and the depth far worse.

    There is also the problem of the long term sick – many millions claiming incapacity benefit so that they are off the unemployment figures. PFI is another problem as it was always about getting such expenditure off the books where it would have broken the Golden Rule that Brown so proudly claimed he wasn’t breaking!

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