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Tory Peer gets it in the neck for stating the bleeding obvious

Top Conservative Lord Howell sparks fury over ‘desolate and uninhabited’ North claim

trumpets the headline in that paragon of Little England statism, the Daily Express. This is because Lord Howell thinks fracking for gas in the north of England would actually be a good idea given that most of its inhabitants are goats and seagulls.

As a quick glance at this map indicates, he called the North of England ‘desolate and uninhabited’ because it is, er, desolate and pretty damn uninhabited.

Jude Leitch, of Northumberland Tourism, said the North East was known for its spectacular scenery, and although it had a history of heavy industry, those areas were concentrated and relatively small. She said: “It’s not hard to refute what he said. He’s probably never been up here in his life.”

Well I have no idea if Lord Howell has ever been up north but I have and yeah, it is desolate and uninhabited for the most part and many of the inhabited bits are ugly as hell. So I am very much in favour of fracking the fracking hell out of it.

30 comments to Tory Peer gets it in the neck for stating the bleeding obvious

  • Any mention of “The North”, especially by a former minister in the government of St. Margaret of Thatcher puts the lefty offense seekers and professional Northerners on swivel eyed loon alert.

    The problem is the loons, from Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, etc. all think he’s dissing them.

    He’s a knob, but he’s got a point. There are huge swathes of rural England in the Fracking belt and given the lower population density of certain Northern parts versus Dunny-on-the-Wold or whatever shitty Southern constituency he’s from, it is possible the fewer Northern locals would “do a Swampy” and protest about Fracking on their doorstep.

    What Sir Hugh Massingbird-Massingbird, VC, DFC and Bar or whatever doesn’t appreciate is that the reason a lot of these Northern parts are lightly populated is because they are in the middle of fucking National Parks.

    Perhaps the Liverpool Care Pathway should be mandatory for some old farts?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I have to admit, I don’t know what fracking looks like. But a culture that’s gone queer for industrial windmills can’t have too much to complain about.

  • Ranting aside, although I’m not in favour of Cuadrilla placing a rig in the middle of The High Peak, there are parts of “The North” which are deep in the fracking zone and wouldn’t be missed.

    So if Cuadrilla fancies flattening Wigan or Bolton to start with, this can only be a good thing. In fact a 100 Megaton ground clearance might be just what the doctor ordered. Preferably without warning.

    :-)

    Frack on Cuadrilla! Frack on!

  • Mr Ed

    As an ‘ethnic’ English northerner, who was in the North East today, in Fence Houses, and last Saturday, I would like to point out that the North East is at its most desolate where it is also inhabited. If you want a spray-tan, Sunderland appears, on casual inspection, to be the World Capital of salons, but my Glaswegian friends may disagree. Wandering into Middlesborough, which is, in cricket terms, Yorkshire, you might struggle to find greater architectural ugliness outside of the old Eastern Bloc.

    There are fine towns, Berwick, Alnwick, fine parts of Newcastle, Durham, Bishop Auckland. Villages such as Bamburgh and Warkworth. However, Northumberland is vast.

    Of course, being an Old Tory ‘Wet’, the idea that the property owners might be the ones to decide where to frack might be alien to the good Lord.

  • RRS

    Well, I suppose this is another thing for which we can thank William the Conqueror who “cleared” the area by harrowing in order to prepare it for fracking.

    Little did he know that the real beauty and worth might lie beneath the surface!!

    Wonder why it took so long?

  • It is, I think, worth remembering that the fortunes of places (and their relative contributions) goes up and down. The following is in the Wikipedia entry for Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

    In the 18th century, Newcastle was the country’s fourth largest print centre after London, Oxford and Cambridge, and the Literary and Philosophical Society of 1793, with its erudite debates and large stock of books in several languages, predated the London Library by half a century. Newcastle also became a glass producer with a reputation for brilliant flint glass.

    In the 19th century, shipbuilding and heavy engineering were central to the city’s prosperity; and the city was a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution. Innovation in Newcastle and surrounding areas included the development of safety lamps, Stephenson’s Rocket, Lord Armstrong’s artillery, Be-Ro flour, Joseph Swan’s electric light bulbs, and Charles Parsons’ invention of the steam turbine, which led to the revolution of marine propulsion and the production of cheap electricity.

    Of course, major reasons for the earlier prosperity are mining for coal, the big river, and proximity to land good for sheep farming.

    It is less common nowadays for geographic issues to be quite as important as they once were. However, oil and gas (the latter here) may well help with the rejuvenation of the area. Hard work and inventiveness often follow such things. And who really would not wish them good fortune from it.

    As for the utterances of occasionally tactless politicians, they are better aware of not saying too much too bluntly: it risks having it grossly over-reported. And then we would know even less of their underlying competence.

    Best regards

  • mike

    Obviously the inhabited parts of the north east vary – Durham Cathedral and Newcastle’s Grey Street are two of the outstanding aesthetic wonders but then there are eyesores like Peterlee, Thornaby and Redcar. In truth the best parts of the North East are all rural – the little towns and villages in Northumberland, County Durham and North Yorkshire.

  • mike

    Lord Howell’s remark:

    “But there are large and uninhabited and desolate areas. Certainly in part of the North East where there’s plenty of room for fracking, well away from anybody’s residence where we could conduct without any kind of threat to the rural environment.”

    There is nothing in that that can honestly be construed as “anti-northern”; that comment could have been made in reference to certain parts of the south of England. The “gasping” members of the Lords are obviously just booby stooges put in place during Blair’s reign.

  • Mr Ed

    A few months ago I was walking through the centre of Newcastle during a working day, Tuesday 3.30 pm ish. I was the only person I saw in a 400 yard stroll in busy streets wearing a suit or what one might regard as ‘business’ or ‘work attire’. The rest of the populace were in a range of clothes, mainly of the shell suit variety. It struck me how many people there were who were not obviously engaged in economic (or even bureaucratic) activity. All those who exist without economic purpose have to be funded somehow, and we are currently on borrowed money, here is the UK National debt clock. It has leapt past £1,200,000,000,000 and is ticking over nicely. Leaving aside whether or not those without economic purpose should be funded, one assumes that the political class realise that ‘something must be done’ to secure funding for their schemes.

    I read somewhere that an American visitor to the UK was struck by how many working age males he saw out and about during the working day not working but in shopping centres, a sight that he did not see in his part of the USA. He drew appropriate conclusions.

    Anything that provides economic activity without nuisance is to be welcomed, as keeping us from slipping back past the Stone Age. However, there is no point in fracking unless it is economic, and that means fracking where the gas will come out in economic quantities, presumably from shale beds.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Very droll.

    A more serious concern is that the forces of reason and freedom are in danger of losing the emotional debate on this one.

    If we really want to have gas prices two or three times as high as those in the US, and to be at the mercy of that delightful man Putin, then that’s fine, but it wouldn’t be my choice.

    Of course, if you think windmills are going to solve all our problems then we don’t need cheap gas. Also, perhaps, you need your head seeing to.

  • The shape of things to come

    The various little hatreds expressed in these comments are a good illustration of why when northerners talk amongst themselves about Scottish independence they would rather go with Scotland and not London.

  • Rose & Crown

    Well Mr or Mrs Shape, some of us Londoners remember when the Thames Barrier was delayed because “no one in Teeside gives a fuck if London drowns”.

    So I’m all for an independent Wessex-Essex-Sussex-Mercia-Anglia-Kent, ta muchly. So please move that border south, how about a line from Chester to King’s Lynn, and ask Edinburgh to come up with your welfare dosh, that’s really fine by me.

  • Mr Ed

    What if the Bank of England were to close? Then the flow of credit that sustains the financial sector would cease, would the City find itself like an oil refinery on a dry well? Would the Jupiter-esque pull of London cease, and leave London with precious little economic activity, insurance apart, and even that invests in equities? This might be a topic for another thread, but should London lose first grasp of new money, and those areas that make and sell things find that the distortions of fiat money cease, would we see London dwindle and regional towns be uplifted?

    There is plenty of hi-tech manufacturing in the UK, particularly in the Home Counties and Cambridgeshire, but not much in London.

  • Ed, London has been about services, not stuff, for a very long time indeed.

  • Mr Ed

    Indeed, perhaps a graph of fiat money growth alongside London’s growth might be interesting, it won’t prove anything, but the only factory in London that springs to my mind is the old Peek Freans biscuit factory in Bermondsey, genesis of the Bourbon and Garibaldi.

  • But I do not see being a service centre as a bad thing, Ed. I think making objects is vastly over rated :D

  • But I do not see being a service centre as a bad thing, Ed. I think making objects is vastly over rated

    I wish this point would get more attention and stress, because it is very true and very much overlooked. Still, the problem is that just like traditional industry that produces physical objects, a service industry needs to be based on real demand, not on demand created by government regulation – which may not be entirely the case with financial centers such as the City or WS.

  • Indeed Alisa, but insurance markets, commodity markets, stock markets etc are indeed based on real demand for the most part.

  • Mr Ed

    Perry/Alisa. I did work for an employers’ federation that had a strong interest in manufacturing for a while, but I am not a fan of manufacturing per se, after all, there are only so many widgets that might be made profitably, but I was just wondering if the virtual disappearance from sight of manufacturing in London is a genuine market phenomenon or a symptom of low-interest rate/regulation driven property and service provision bubbles.

    In Leicester, for example, there is a large working foundry a few hundred yards from a John Lewis (a UK up-market store) and a vast, shiny shopping centre, and plenty of people as late as the early 1990s could live in the same street as their factory workplace in Leicester, and indeed recently some knitwear manufacturing has returned to Leicester.

    Not all manufacturing is good, even if profitable. A manufacturer of wax seals, being until recently a mandatory requirement for a ltd co. in the UK is not adding to the economy if its demand comes from regulation, it is just catering for an artificial need, albeit it might be profitable. Perhaps this is moving away from the Good Lord’s faux pas, especially as he has said that he meant to say the ‘North West’, not the ‘North East’, strangling two puppies with one hand.

  • but I was just wondering if the virtual disappearance from sight of manufacturing in London is a genuine market phenomenon or a symptom of low-interest rate/regulation driven property and service provision bubbles.

    I suspect that it is a mixture of both, Ed.

    Perry, insurance aside, ‘for the most part’?

  • Mr Ed

    30 years ago, the government was prepared to sacrifice Essex and Kent for London, but Woolwich was a tip even then.

  • Yes Alisa. Some stocks are very much dependent on state largess and regulation, so ‘for the most part’. And without the state nationalising so many aspects of life, insurance would actually be an even bigger part of the UK economy than it already is.

  • Pardone

    Surely scum-populated dumps like Canvey Island, Laindon, Watford, and Basildon are ripe for fracking.

  • Pardone

    Insurance markets are based on human gullibility, while house prices are based on total BS. and Baby Boomer greed.

  • Actually lack of insurance is based on human stupidity, mate.

  • Perry, what I question is the notion that the stock markets are currently based on real demand (for the most part), rather than on artificial money/credit supply. I do realize that the stock markets are not as inflated as the bond markets – but still, I do question. I think that commodities is a separate matter, and I generally agree with you about insurance.

  • Mr Ed

    Lack of insurance might be based also on perception of risk and cost/benefit analysis. I do not insure myself against cancelling train journeys for £1 if the ticket costs around £50, as I reckon my chances of catching a train as being very high. But for a holiday overseas, I do buy insurance against cancellation etc. I have only once insured a holiday in the UK.

    Every now and then, someone goes uninsured on a cruise and falls ill, ending up with horrendous medical bills and repatriation costs. Odd that they might spend £3,000 or so on a holiday but not £24 on insurance, even odder that they might expect sympathy for their plight. After all, they might not have their health and home, but they still have their premium.

  • Insurance is a legitimate and useful product – but just like with any other product, it doesn’t mean that all kinds of insurance are always suitable for everyone. Simply saying that ‘insurance markets are based on human gullibility’ is not very insightful or helpful.

  • Rickard Thomas

    Would there be any disagreement that some segment of the insurance market is from gullibility, some from unnecessary government regulation and a good deal from genuine need but that the segment from genuine need might exceed all three put together if the first two were actually eliminated?

  • hovis

    Howell’s comments about the North are little more than a distraction.

    As a long time reader of Samizdata and generally agree with much here. However I find it increasingly depressing when it pretends libertarianism, but then cheerleads for corrupt state/corporatist cronyism. The current fracking push in the UK encapsulates perfectly.

    Say the word Windmill and you’ll have people frothing at the mouth within seconds. Point out that that Fracking is a Ponzi scheme only possible via state violence and regulation, that its provably pollutes water tables and suddenly “the forces of reason and freedom are in retreat”. I think it is such statements that are the emotional hysteria here. I will simply say: Pennsylvania and Chesapeake Energy Hallibuton loophole.

    The UK is not the US in terms of infrastructure or situation. There is a debate to be had, benefits have been wildly overstated, the downsides hugeley downplayed. Much seems to be driven by Osbourne’s incompetance and the electoral timetable.