Vision for CAP reform – reduce the role of the EU

Obviously anyone would be annoyed by the ludicrous wine lake thing (below). So duly inspired, I decided to set out a vision for Commmon Agricultural Policy reform – based on devolution, sustainable development and sound economics.

Rather than do it here, I thought it would be interesting to post it on David Miliband’s blog, as he was discussing CAP… So here it is. Wonder what he made of it?

Home Office or giant squid?

After weeks of pain over prisoners let out, illegal aliens let in, and criminals let off, the perpetually distressed Home Office reacts to its plight like a giant squid, discharging vast quantities of a dark inky substance into its surroundings – that is vicious newspaper copy about the nation’s most hated species… see left. The Home Office (press release) has expelled 60 paedophiles from probation hostels located near schools (presumably to somewhere where children cannot be reached?) and promised to consider ‘Sarah’s law’, which would give public access to the address details of convicted and released sex offenders – responding to a campaign by the News of the World.

The possible negative consequences include: Continue reading “Home Office or giant squid?”

"Brown stays nuclear" is not a story

The government was always going to renew its nuclear weapons capability and despite the minor furore, the Chancellor was stating the obvious in his Mansion House speech (BBC story). Despite the obvious lack of an enemy, the obvious threats for which nuclear weapons are useless, and the obvious opportunity cost of not using the money for peace-making and peace-keeping, there is just a world-leader phallic thing about these weapons and it would have been startling if he had announced a national nuclear emasculation. What is now more important is exactly what this capability would be. There are many possible options (and costs) for the platform (air launched, submarine), missile system and warheads. The degree of firepower, independence from the US, and readiness (minutes, days or months?) are also variables. So what is a minimum deterrent? Virtually nothing was said on this. Continue reading “"Brown stays nuclear" is not a story”

A few words on nuclear power and the Prime Minister…

With colleagues giving evidence to the Trade and Industry Select Committee yesterday, and I finished up with a short exchange with the committee Chairman on whether the Prime Minister is listening to our advice on nuclear power and energy policy – namely that they should design technology-neutral markets structured with incentives to achieve climate-change and energy security objectives, rather than decide which technologies to use. We say design the market then let the market decide the technologies rather than pick winners and pay whatever they ask. That’s how emissions trading works, for example.

The Chairman asked if the PM’s speech to the CBI was consistent with that advice… I probably should have been diplomatic and said “well maybe he hasn’t got around to reading it yet” or something. Instead I said “no”. So this has been turned into a story “Blair accused of brushing aside nuclear energy advice” in The Scotsman. Continue reading “A few words on nuclear power and the Prime Minister…”

The Times – it used to be a decent paper

Letter from me in The Times… The paper had an absurd front page saying “Support for Met Chief crumbles” because the police minister, Tony McNulty, refused to say the position of the Commissioner of the Met police, Sir Ian Blair, is safe in advance of publication of the inquiry into the mistaken identity and shooting of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes. But the opposite would be much worse – guaranteeing his job would be a signal that ministers intend to ignore the report. Deciding that his position is already doomed is no better – because it would be based on leaks and spin. Whatever The Times is up to – it’s annoying!

Servants of the people? They need a slap

Last night went to see my old boss Geoff Mulgan plugging his new book, Good and Bad Power: the ideals and betrayals of government [Amazon]. Three main observations:

      1. Geoff Mulgan is a very clever man and interesting speaker.
      2. The book offers a fascinating insight into the tension between governments as democratically accountable ‘servants’, and as ‘rulers’ that take power to deliver security, welfare and justice. All very timely.
      3. He draws on the ancient Sumerian tradition in which the High Priest slaps the King’s face to remind him of the need for humility.

The third point has important and urgent relevance in Britain today…

Choice in the NHS will fail without exit strategy for the unchosen

Health Minister Andy Burnham disgraced himself this morning on the radio. Subject is ‘patient choice’ (BBC item), which is to be expanded. In my view, generally a good idea to put the patient and their adviser (usually the GP) in the driving seat – if money follows the patient then suddenly patients matter more to eveyone in the NHS. Whatever anyone says, the NHS is a bastion of producer interest and its staff quite capable of treating you as if you don’t exist. There’s lots that can go wrong of course, but patient choice is right should be doable. Burnham’s disgrace was to fudge the critical question: what happens to places patients choose to abandon? He came up with some weasel words about support from the centre for hospitals that were struggling. But choice will only work if there is a credible exit strategy for places that aren’t chosen. Vast sums of money and growing share of national income are at stake – see chart (click to open larger version). Ministers have to be much more careful than they have been about who gets to spend it and how that is decided.

Blair backs nuclear plans – but…

At the CBI dinner, the PM says nuclear power is back with a vengeance. An odd choice of words… like it’s pay-back time and a lot of people are gonna to get hurt.

This determined winner-picking pro-nuclear stance based on the PM’s gut feel and advisers’ hunches shouldn’t really surprise anyone – he’s been saying it for months. The trouble is that it is quite difficult to actually do this, even if it is what the Prime Minister wants. At least not without completely upending the energy market as currently designed – and that may take rather more time than the PM has. Continue reading “Blair backs nuclear plans – but…”

First past the post

With David Cameron riding high, will he win the next election? In the 2005 general election, each party needed dramatically different numbers of voters for each seat it won. They weren’t that far apart in votes cast, but miles apart in seats won.





% seats

Votes / seat













Lib Dem






All others












At the next election a hung parliament is a possibility – perhaps that will be what we need to have a change of electoral system. We have to get closer to PR, without ending up like Italy.How can anyone possibly call this fair? The worst injustice was done to UKIP – with 605,973 votes and no seats. This would be enough votes for 22 Labour seats. I have no brief for UKIP at all, but they do reflect a particular view in Britain that is seeking representation.