Is Hinkley Point C The Right Choice?

fukusima-accident

 

It is handy to open with the thought of Fukushima and Chernobyl, both disasters. Chernobyl saw the fallout kill sheep in Cumbria. The point is Nuclear power is dangerous and in a disaster could cost lives as we have seen in the past and present. The disturbing thing for me is, the government is making long-term plans to keep the UK on nuclear power despite the obvious global push towards renewable energy, which is becoming more mainstream and cheaper than nuclear power. So the question remains, why is the government getting cosy with EDF and its Chinese backers?

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EDF runs 8 nuclear plants in the UK, 4 were shut down in 2014 as a result of safety and functional issues, in France EDF has major issues, from faulty reactor parts to outages. Full story

So this is a firm with a bad track record in managing nuclear power, in reality a troubled organisation. The May government clearly can’t see what is plain, the UK’s nuclear story is a disaster. The Chinese partners are looking to build new plants in Sizewell and Bradwell, investing in Hinkley just paves the way. No disrespect but do we really want China managing our nuclear power stations? I know what my answer is. Is it that we are so desperate to deal with China that sense has exited the building? First it was steel that cost 8,000 jobs, now nuclear power. While some will sight the upside of 20,000 new jobs created but EDF has a history of cutting new jobs created to save cost of managing, so I am doubtful of the long-term benefit. The EU has already sighted safety concerns for the continent and demanded they be consulted on future projects, which the UK government has agreed.

Let’s look at the cost to the tax payer. Power would be supplied at £92.50/MWh over 35 years, double the current wholesale price. There is also inadequate insurance liability, meaning the tax payer would likely cover the shortfall in the event of accidents that will occur not to mention the £10m loan guarantee. Hinkley is a bad deal, a desperate bid by EDF to boost its already tarnished image at the expense of the UK consumer.

So why is the UK not looking at renewable, seeing nuclear accounts for 10% of power supply? On-shore wind comes in incredibly cheaper than nuclear and there is a lot of innovation in renewable energy, it is unfair to commit the country to a very expensive deal that benefits only China and EDF for 35 years without us knowing the future. See article on renewable’s

Let’s face it, this could be the disaster of the 21st century, Hinkley has resumed development after delays based on court decisions in France against some of EDF’s failing plants amidst safety concerns. It is time we all asked the question… Do we want a Chernobyl?

 

Preventing Grenfell

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It takes an event like this for people to realize that there is a tale of two cities. The problem with the kind of divisive politics that separates the rich from the poor and uses this to gain votes is those with money will always largely end up winning. They pay our wages, they control our politics and in some cases the very air we breathe, if we think of pollution from big business. This is a global problem that should not exist in the 21st century. How many times did you hear as a child that poverty will come to an end, “technology will bring prosperity”. Instead what we have is Dickensian inequality. There are some parts of London where a bottle of Champagne costs £250,000 and individuals spend £20,000 in one night at a party. On the same token there are people who can’t afford the basics and are being told their welfare of £2000 a month must be reduced because they are not contributing to the economy.

Let’s transcend party political ideology and access individual welfare based on facts, the facts surrounding distribution of wealth in modern Britain. 20% of all wealth in the UK is controlled by 1% of the population and 50% of all wealth is controlled by 10%. Full data

We are not talking about income distribution. These figures are even more shocking with the median income a mere £21,000 per annum before housing costs. This means that minority ethnic groups are more likely to earn less than £20,000 per annum.

Equivalised Household Income Distribution before Housing Costs

Income by occupation

The tables below shows the ten highest and ten lowest paid occupations in the UK respectively, as at April 2014.

Occupation Median full-time gross weekly pay (£)
Aircraft pilots and flight engineers 1,746.6
Air traffic controllers 1,549.4
Chief executives and senior officials 1,533.3
Marketing and sales directors 1,298.7
Advertising and public relations directors 1,289.5
Information technology and telecommunications directors 1,226.7
Legal professionals (not included elsewhere) 1,217.3
Medical practitioners 1,167.1
Brokers 1,149.9
Financial managers and directors 1,143.0
Occupation Median full-time gross weekly pay (£)
Cleaners and domestics 285.5
Nursery nurses and assistants 285.2
Other elementary services occupations (not included elsewhere) 279.9
Retail cashiers and check-out operators 278.7
Leisure and theme park attendants 272.7
Kitchen and catering assistants 268.4
Hairdressers and barbers 267.8
Launderers, dry cleaners and pressers 259.3
Waiters and waitresses 257.6
Bar staff 253.6

Let’s focus on Grenfell now. The residents were largely ethnic minorities, living in an area that has seen house values rise as a result of foreign investment that has been unchecked and uncontrolled. These individuals investing in these areas are merely parking ill gotten gains from corrupt countries, these properties are attracting Capital gain that government cannot realize in tax because the properties remain unsold, this kind of gain does not create employment, it drives local prices up and does benefit the government at all. The cheapest property in Mayfair is £1m, it stands empty with no tenants, the capital growth is 15% per annum. Council housing in these neighborhoods are quickly sold to force residents out to poorer areas and ghettos, developers will snap up the smallest piece of land to build more expensive high rises. Council houses that remain cease to be invested in, as a they get written off to be taken over by private developers in the future. All because of artificially inflated land value. Sadly, we become aware when Grenfell tower happens and we realize that the councils, the government and the developers are all in league.

Solution 

Address the level of inequality by improving labor laws and forcing companies to pay more. Wages need to be in line with living costs in the capital. It makes no sense if an individual pays 70% of their earnings on housing and council tax.  As a company if you can’t afford to pay London wages, then relocate to other parts of the country, this will stop over crowding in the capital, and limit migration of workers to the capital. Many companies have re-located with the internet it is not necessary to be in London. It’s time all companies paid London weighting.

We need to address education. It is unfair that foreigners abroad can educate themselves for under £10,000 to masters level, studying medicine in the Czech Republic is a mere £12,000. As these are skilled worker not even leaving the EU will prevent this kind of labor flow. It is time we can all access education affordably and at a descent standard. Teachers need more flexibility to develop good curricular and not bureaucracy. Their needs to be reform to how teachers are recruited, most teachers today hate their job because they were in it for the pay and realize that dealing with young minds is challenging. It is better to recruit teachers direct from the workforce like the United States and let people who want the job, bring their passion allowing for a certification process rather than the current teacher access programs.

We need to invest in technological infrastructure and make a commitment to put a computer and fast internet in every home in Britain. Internet speeds in Romania are over 1gb in speed, in the US we have T1 connections, in the UK we can only notch 20mb internet speeds at a whopping £30-£40 a month. Statisitics show that black children are unlikely to be found in IT jobs in the future based on poverty. In other words they can’t afford to study the subject. IT is still one of the highest paid jobs in Britain but the field is dominated by Asians and white males over 40.

Certain groups due to religious belief don’t work or are not allowed to participate in the labor pool. This should not be allowed in a modern society, such practices cannot be supported by the state, it takes away affordable homes from those who work the hardest and sends them into overcrowded accommodation. The groups with this belief also limit their ability to earn income and are likely to live in poverty more permanently. This issue needs to be addressed at community and council level. Let’s start talking about the big elephants in the room.

The cash buying housing market must be regulated. Individuals wishing to make cash purchases must either reside in the property or lease it out at a reasonable rate, I am proposing rent controls or they must lease to the state at a below market rate if they intend it to remain inactive or unable to find a tenant or sell. This will ensure that cash parking is reduced and the number of Britain’s empty homes is reduced. Estate Agents must be regulated and held responsible for unreasonable high valuations and they must be prevented from cornering the market by declaring their own investments separately from their agency work, similar to what was proposed for banking.

There are tons of things to address beyond fire safety rules, etc. This is a problem that goes beyond fire safety or cladding and has more to do with attitudes towards the poor and those forgotten because their wallets are just not big enough. I hope the Prime minister recognizes that incidents like Grenfell demand her resignation and people involved must go to jail. A full inquest is necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Story Of Immigration

The United Kingdom is one of the most diverse countries in the world and no stranger to migrants. Migration has been happening to the Island since recorded history. The Saxons invaded and settled in the 1st millennium AD, to be followed by the Danes and the Normans, by the 19th century the United Kingdom boasted a diverse set of European and African migrants. Border controls in the 19th century were not as sophisticated and the Victorian era was bristling with poverty and inequality, it is no surprise people cared little for the presence of migrants. In the 1960’s post war era, indentured labour became necessary, so Caribbean migrants sailed to Britain and despite living under terrible conditions, they made valuable contributions to Britain’s public service sector, from housing development, railway, to energy and healthcare. Pakistani migrants also came to the UK developing a 24 hour local economy that today is invaluable to Britons. Despite this migration, non-white immigrants and all their descendants still make up less than 5% of the British population, their contribution in the face of senseless hate through the post war years is astonishing, especially when you think of their contribution to development proportional to numbers. A big blow for the Enoch Powell crowd.

Britain is the 5th largest economy in the world. Many European nations like Spain and Italy have 30% youth unemployment and somehow always claim the rich North are seeking their demise. Let’s face facts, Spain had an empire similar the Britain, they participated in the slave trade. Their failure to emerge as a power in Europe was based on their attitude to migrants and former colonies under their charge. Britain and France still maintain close ties with their former colonies as a consequence France is the 6th largest economy in the world.  If Le Pen has her way, France could be staring into the abyss and may even turn out worse than Spain and Italy. Britain’s growth and success in the world is dependent on strong immigration that needs to be underpinned by a good legal framework to ensure we attract the right sort of migration.

In a world where education is becoming wide spread and wealth is global, migrants are aspiring and have the means to compete, so it is impossible to attract indentured labour as even poorer countries now have well educated migrants. Take David Sengeh, a Sierra Leonean migrant to Sweden who studied Engineering, earned a scholarship to MIT and developed the first perfect fit bionic limb, he was inspired by the civil war in his home country (Ref. CNN African voices). His development would aid British, American and other amputees around the globe, his tax bill is likely to be worth 10 times that of the average jobber. There is no argument that migration adds a net  benefit to any nation lucky enough to attract migrants.

Let’s take a detour to Eastern Europe, still trying to shake its racist, bigoted and anti-Semitic roots. Women in Ukraine and Russia are treated as commodities to be bought and sold to the highest bidder, their value reduced to the curse of their Slavic beauty, the Ottoman legacy. Other former Soviet block states like Serbia and Romania are also wrestling with the prospect of being more open to attract business. Let’s face it, hardly anyone wants to migrate to Eastern Europe no matter where you are from, the stories of open dislike for migration and failing systems is a deterrent. That said, these countries are one of the poorest in Europe and continue to scramble for EU handouts and run the risk of being absorbed back into Russia or simply used as a work house for the EU.

Britain will likely be leaving the EU, a campaign won as a result of  the hubris of Londoners and city dwellers that take things for granted and the strong far-right message targeted towards the Islamic threat and European open borders. The poorer Eastern Europeans who shun migration in their countries hoped to takeover British industry with their industrious nature and repatriate those resources back to their home countries. It seems like the competition from this kind of uncontrolled migration is too much for Britain. There is a lesson in all of this, cultural understanding is an important aspect of migration, The UK needed an immigration policy friendly to former English speaking African, Caribbean and Asian colonies whom since the 16th century have offered a net benefit to the Island. They speak the same language and feel more of affiliation to the UK. It is clear that while Eastern Europeans are white Europeans and are genetically similar, they are culturally miles apart and feel no allegiance to the United Kingdom not ignoring the wave of Middle Eastern migrants that practice a completely different religion at the core and have always had strained relations with the West. Modern immigration policy must take into account cultural differences and in turn put measures in place that don’t jeopardize our place in the world but at the same time preserve our cultural identity.

Politicians needed to acknowledge that cheap European labour was going to hurt manual labour industries. They should have blocked access to Welfare and other healthcare facilities for new EU migrants, they should have made access rules for Commonwealth countries easier, this would have stemmed the need for companies to grab at the cheap labour pool. there should have been US affirmative style action, that is companies must consider UK citizens first for skills, this would have stopped ordinary citizens regardless of race being forced out of their jobs. It was just too easy for corporations to choose cheap European labour over domestic. While Britain is all about freedom of religion, people from Islamic backgrounds needed monitoring, a Chinese style community relations officer should have been appointed to observe what is being said in places of worship, this would deter terrorists from using mosques as meeting grounds and radical preachers would have been picked up earlier. Cyber security, remains paramount, companies like Google should be made to take down sites and videos citing racial or religious hatred, we have no 1st amendment in the UK. Some of these measures would be hard to enact but public support would definitely have swayed the political elite without the need for a nuclear option like Brexit. Immigration will be a never ending story it is question of what kind of immigration do we need and how do we manage it.

Education Is Failing Boys In The UK

Building on a trend that began more than a decade ago, girls are outperforming boys at every level in education. They get more and better GCSEs and A-levels, win more places at top universities and gain better degrees

Daily Mail Online Excerpt

As the father of a son and a daughter, I have a special interest in how the sexes are educated in our schools. Somewhere down the line girls are coping better than boys at school. Boys are labelled as disruptive largely by female teachers who simply don’t have an understanding of the male psyche. It is universally known that boys develop slower than girls and tend to lean more towards outdoor activities, one of the reasons why boys tend to get on better with the PE teacher.  Does it make any sense, knowing this to put boys under the same pressure to learn at the same pace as girls?

Girls are very well supported in the classroom while boys though having access to the same level of support, are unlikely to utilize it in the same fashion as girls especially when that support comes from the dreaded female teacher. So what’s the answer?

Steve Biddulph famous author and activist, who has written several bestsellers on the subject of boyhood and manhood highlights the problem as a global one. The absence of strong male figures in the classroom has led to boys being feminized. The Telegraph claims that one in five teachers is a man in primary school. There is an argument that abuse towards children is still associated with male figures. There have been several high profile cases in the past that have involved males in classrooms accused of inappropriate behavior. It is possible that most men prefer a peaceful life, so would likely not want to be associated with small children in a society that is obsessed with child safety.

All said and done, it is evident that this exclusion of older male influence in schools is having a direct impact on the performance of boys in school. If we continue to ignore this trend, boys will soon be unable to function effectively in the workforce and the myriad of social issues like domestic violence, fatherless children will only continue to intensify. The number of divorces from the 1930’s has risen at the same time the number of marriages has declined according to the Office for National Statistics. These kind of statistics highlight the gulf between the sexes. Women think most men are childish and selfish, most men think women only care about money and their kids yet 59% of women in the UK would choose marriage over career. So there is still hope. If society is going to produce men who are respected it starts in the classroom.