We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Matt Ridley on UK’s centrally planned economy

The Little Octobrists prepare for their future role

“Schools are accused of ‘brainwashing’ students as children as young as 12 take part in mock trial of Tory MP Richard Drax for ‘benefitting from slavery’ because of his ancestors.”

Steal Labour’s clothes, look like Labour

Britain’s electricity supply is in peril. On Monday (20 Sep) the Financial Times reported,

Peter McGirr wanted to modernise the British consumer energy market when he founded Green three years ago, building a customer base of more than 250,000 households. Now, with the sector in meltdown, he says it is “incredibly unlikely” the Newcastle-based supplier will survive until Christmas without government intervention.

Five smaller suppliers have collapsed in the past six weeks, with four or five more expected to join them in the next 10 days as the industry is battered by unprecedented surges in wholesale electricity and gas prices.

Observers are predicting as few as 10 suppliers will make it through the winter, implying 40 could go bust. Some executives have privately suggested the sector could go back to a big four, five or six companies.

How did this happen to us? I know who to blame for setting the UK on this disastrous course. On Tuesday 24 September 2013, eight years ago tomorrow, the then Leader of the Labour party, Ed Miliband, gave his big speech to the Labour party conference in Brighton. One item was particularly popular:

“If we win the election 2015 the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. Your bills will not rise. It will benefit millions of families and millions of businesses. That’s what I mean by a government that fights for you. That’s what I mean when I say Britain can do better than this.”

The response from the Tories was immediate and scathing:

As the Guardian reported,

Energy minister Greg Barker attacks Labour’s plan to cap energy prices

In response to Ed Miliband’s announcement, the energy minister says capping energy prices would have catastrophic consequences for investment in the UK

Figures from the gas industry chipped in:

The lights could go out if Labour introduces its 20-month freeze on energy prices, Ian Peters of British Gas said. “If we have no ability to control what we do in the retail prices” and wholesale prices suddenly go up within a single year “that will threaten energy security,” he said. Asked if that meant the lights would go out, he replied: “I think that is a risk.”

But Mr Miliband’s policy had equally vigorous defenders. On 25 September 2013, the day after Mr Miliband’s speech, Alex Andreou of the New Statesman thundered:

Ed Miliband’s critics think his energy pledge will make the lights go out. They are wrong

The critics were wrong. Ed Miliband is innocent OK! It was not his pledge that a Labour government would limit energy prices that has brought us so near to having the lights go out.

The Conservative manifesto of 2017 included energy price controls, duly introduced by Prime Minister Theresa May on 1st January 2019.

And here we are.

The treason trials of 2021

The Mirror‘s columnist Susie Boniface*, who writes under the name “Fleet Street Fox”, would like to see them happen. She writes,

If you abandon your country to join ISIS, you can be stripped of citizenship. If you join a proscribed terror organisation, you face 10 years in jail. And if you talk about staging a coup, encourage birth defects, or lie about a lifesaving vaccine, you’re committing something terrifyingly close to murder, insurrection, and child abuse, yet go unpunished.

Spreading lies that damage the NHS, downgrade democracy, or cause child deformities is a crime against all that Britain is supposed to stand for, but it’s difficult to proscribe a loose affiliation of lunatics. Updating our laws to make the spreading of harmful conspiracy theories an act of treason, though, would mean that not only could the ringleaders be shut down, they also could be deradicalised, medicated and educated. They are terrorists, and should be treated as such.

Take out the co-ordinators, and their converts could be deprogrammed. Which would leave the rest of us able to continue the important business of moving as far away as possible from the 14th century, and all its terrifying ignorance.

*In the early days of her “Fleet Street Fox” identity, Ms Boniface wanted to write anonymously. If that were still the case, I would not have said her real name even if I knew it. But since she outed herself in the pages of the Times back in 2013 and is quite happy to identify herself as being “Fleet Street Fox” on her personal website, her pseudonym is clearly now part of her brand rather than actually intended to keep her name secret.

A press release worth sharing

I got this today from the Global Warming Policy Forum, a group that I guess can be best called a global warming sceptics group. It is based in the UK. Here is its press release today. It responds to reports that the UK is dangerously vulnerable to cuts in energy supplies and rocketing prices. Winter this year could be interesting. If the UK has power cuts and serious hits to supplies this year and into next, will the government double down on trying to produce energy from wind and happy thoughts, or realise that a mix of nuclear, some fossil fuels and limited renewables are the way to go? Can any major Western political leader withstand the likely wailing from the establishment media and call bullshit on Net Zero and the anti-carbon cult? Can you imagine any such figure advocating that people read Alex Epstein or Michael Schellenberger, for instance? It is worth noting that the last time the UK had power cuts, during the early 70s, we had a Tory government as led by Edward Heath (who took the UK into the EEC). Then, the coal industry was locked in a brutal industrial dispute with the unions. The three-day week, blackouts and all the rest were big reasons for why Heath was kicked out and eventually replaced by Margaret Thatcher. A basic requirement of a government is to keep the lights on, or at least not stop people from keeping them on. Boris Johnson doesn’t want to be the next Heath, does he?

Here is the GWPF press release:

The GWPF has consistently warned that Britain’s unilateral climate policies under both Labour and Conservative administrations were creating an insecure and expensive energy sector that would ultimately fail due to consumer costs and collapsing security of supply.

These warnings are now fully vindicated. Over-reliance on renewables and interconnectors and a failure to maintain a diverse portfolio of energy supply and electricity generation has resulted in a fragile, weather-dependent British system that is critically vulnerable to pan-European low wind conditions, interconnector failure, and high regional gas prices.

Income support subsidies to renewable energy investors currently total about £10 billion a year, and are still rising, while grid management costs have increased six-fold (to just under £2 billion a year) since the early 2000s when renewables were first introduced in significant quantities.

In spite of this large and growing cost burden, renewables do not protect the consumer effectively against fluctuations in gas prices, since wind and solar are both critically reliant on gas to guarantee security of supply. The UK’s apparent diversity of supply is an illusion. The current energy cost and supply crisis is the result of decades of ill-considered climate policy which has prioritised costly emissions reductions technologies while neglecting the consumer interest, security of supply and macro-economic impact.

The severity of the current crisis merits emergency measures, not only to protect consumers and the economy, but also to avoid the crisis from turning into social disaster as winter approaches.

The GWPF is calling on the Government to:

1. Suspend all green levies on energy bills, funding subsidies temporarily out of taxation, but acting firmly to cancel these subsidies in the near term.

2. Cancel constraint payments, and compel wind and solar generators to pay for their own balancing costs, thus incentivising them to self-dispatch only when economic.

3. Remove all fiscal and other disincentives to oil and gas exploration, including shale gas, to increase domestic production levels.

4. Suspend carbon taxation on coal and gas generation in order to provide consumer relief and ensure security of supply.

5. Re-open recently closed gas storage facilities and support new storage projects.

6. Suspend all further policy initiatives directed towards the Net Zero target, including the Carbon Budgets, the heat pump targets, and the overly ambitious timetable for the ban on petrol and diesel engines, until the UK energy sector has been stabilised.

7. Facilitate the acceleration of building and deploying Small Modular Reactors for both electricity and heat.

Ctrl-F “frack” 0/0

The government has published this UK gas supply explainer.

There has recently been widespread media coverage of wholesale gas prices, and the effect this could have on household energy bills. The impact on certain areas of industry, and its ability to continue production, has also attracted attention.

This explainer sets out the background to the issue and the action the government is taking to protect the UK’s energy supply, industry, and consumers.

Natural gas prices have been steadily rising across the globe this year for a number of reasons. This has affected Europe, including the UK, as well as other countries around the world.

Later, the author of the “explainer” reassures us consumers that energy prices may not go up as much as one might expect:

The high wholesale gas prices that are currently visible may not be the actual prices being paid by all consumers.

This is because major energy suppliers purchase much of their wholesale supplies many months in advance, giving protection to them and their customers from short-term price spikes.

The Energy Price Cap is also in place to protect millions of customers from the sudden increases in global gas prices this winter. Despite the rising costs of wholesale energy, the cap still saves 15 million households up to £100 a year.

Isn’t it nice that the government protects consumers by stopping energy firms passing on price rises?

Completely unrelated: Four more small energy firms could go bust next week, the BBC reports.

Some of you may remember that the Bishop Hill blog used to cover climate and energy issues in a moderate and well-informed way. Unless I missed the announcement of a move, that blog does not seem to have been active since 2019. However I recently found that the Bishop is on Twitter, one of the few reasons left to visit that horrible place.

I wrote to my MP, and she wrote back

A few days ago I did something I am not used to doing, which is I wrote to my MP, who is Nickie Aiken (she is MP for Cities of London and Westminster). I have met her several times; personally, I like her and she has been helpful on several local issues. I wrote about the rise in National Insurance Contributions, taking the UK total tax burden to levels not seen in 70 years.

My letter suggested that there was no point putting new money into the NHS, a state monopoly, without reforms, and that NI ought to be blended with income tax, given that “insurance” is a misnomer and that this would give people a clearer idea of how much the State takes. I commended efforts by former Cabinet Minister Peter Lilley to her on how to use private insurance and other methods to increase availability of residential care and doing so in a way that was fair. My letter avoided the usual libertarian fire-eating exercises we can get into. I was polite and constructive. I think others who want to contact MPs should adopt the same approach, if only to make them aware of how we think. These things do add up. MPs can count, particularly those in marginal seats.

She replied. I don’t know if her reply – which was quite lengthy – was one that she has sent to other constituents and some sort of pro forma thing. If she wrote it to me personally then that speaks most well of her to take the time to do so. I think it is okay for me to republish it here because this letter was sent by a supporter of a government and defending what is now official, public policy. Remember, this is a “moderate”, fairly middle-of-the-road MP, and I think pretty typical of most of her party.

Here goes:

During the summer recess, I spent a week looking after my father who is living with advanced Alzheimer’s while my mother had a respite holiday. I experienced what millions of people up and down the country live with day in day out, month after month caring for their loved ones in similar circumstances and I pay tribute to every single one of them. Equally I am in awe of our care professionals working in care homes and those who provide care services in people’s homes. I believe the covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the outstanding service they all provide for which I am grateful.

It is this recent experience as well as having been a Council Leader where 40% of the local authority’s budget was spent on adult social services, has led me to accept that if we are to reform social care and ensure that all those in need receive the dignified care they all deserve then extra funding is required. I believe that such a levy as proposed would have been necessary even before the pandemic. However, now with the nation’s finances in the position they currently are, with the Government having spent over £400bn keeping the economy and businesses afloat, raising further revenue is now a must.

I therefore accepted the arguments both the Prime Minister and the Health & Social Care Secretary have made in their reasons why they are proposing the new levy. During the Prime Minister’s statement in the Commons this week I sought assurances that, through the health and social care levy, money raised will go to fund local authorities who are on the front line of providing social care. I am firmly of the view that not all the money raised should go to the NHS but to councils too. As I understand the situation, in total £36 billion will be invested in the health and care system over the next three years to ensure it has the long term resource it needs.

Having looked at the proposals I note that the 1.25% proposed levy means someone working full time on National Living Wage earning £16,216 would pay around £1.50 per week. With such investments patients will benefit from the biggest catch-up programme in the NHS’s history, so people no longer face excessive waits for treatment. This will provide an extra 9 million checks, scans, and operations; and increase NHS capacity to 110 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels by 2023-24.

I appreciate that some people highlighted that the young will be burdened more than the older generations when it comes to the levy and that this is a tax on low paid workers. I note that the highest-earning 14 per cent in the country will pay over half the levy, and the Government has also announced an equivalent increase in dividend tax rates and the suspension of the pension triple lock which would have seen an 8.8% increase in the state pension next year which I agree would be unfair at this time. Instead it will rise by 2.5% or inflation

As a Conservative I believe in a low tax economy. I also believe in financial responsibility and following the pandemic I do feel that we are not in the same position as a country that we were pre-pandemic thus it is right to raise funds in order to support the NHS deal with the immense backlog of waiting lists and also take the necessary and fair steps necessary to give our health and care services the backing and funding they need in order to recover from the effects of the pandemic and ensure the health and wellbeing of residents here in the Two Cities.

Draw your own conclusions on where politics is headed in this country.

“They’re not coming. You’re on your own.”

Even people who habitually decry the uselessness of the State often have a soft spot for the emergency services. When catastrophe strikes, they say, enlightened self interest will not make men run forward into danger. For that you need an ethos of service. For that you need a flag, a uniform, a loyalty, a government.

“Manchester Arena bombing: New rules delay paramedics at terror attacks”, the Times reports.

The only paramedic to reach the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing in the first 40 minutes after the attack would not have been allowed to attend under new rules.

The inquiry into the attack at an Ariane Grande concert was told that paramedics are unlikely to be at the scene of a terrorist attack for at least half an hour as a result of rules that require detailed risk assessments to be made first.

Patrick Ennis “self-deployed” to the arena within ten minutes when he heard there had been an explosion.

You can judge how that turned out by the fact that the original Times headline was “Manchester bomb paramedics ‘banned from helping’ for 40 minutes”.

However, neither he nor two colleagues who eventually joined him in the City Room foyer treated patients immediately. Ennis has previously said to do so “would have been to the detriment of the overall management of the greater number of casualties”.

Sir John Saunders, the chairman of the inquiry, which began in September last year at Manchester magistrates’ court, said: “I have been told for the first half an hour after an incident, you can’t expect the staff to be there, paramedics are unlikely to be there.”

Here’s a vote winner for Boris: we start a specialised public service staffed by people specially trained and ready to be there – even without a risk assessment. You know, like the Ambulance service used to be.

Although most of the responses to the Times story were hostile to the North West Ambulance Service, some did point out that terrorists have been known to set a second bomb timed to kill early responders to the first. The IRA were particularly fond of that trick. It is a fair point. But that risk must be balanced against the certainty that at the Manchester Arena people were dying for lack of help. And, I have to ask, if the Ambulance Service only goes in when it is safe, why have a service at all? Privatise it.

The following particularly riled the Times commenters:

Gerard Blezard, director of operations at NWAS, became the most senior officer to give evidence to the inquiry.

Sophie Cartwright QC, for the inquiry, asked Blezard why there should not be any “self-deployment”.

“Several reasons, you need to have business continuity. Who does the day-to-day business the next day, how do we know who is at the scene?” he said.

A new system called Cascade means that paramedics can contact a central number and their details are then passed to the tactical commander. It has been tested several times, but “not in a live environment”, Blezard said.

Guy Gozem QC, for the victims’ families, asked: “A lot of those who self-deployed actually performed a valuable service, didn’t they? Had it not been for their self-deployment, there would have been an even greater wait for assistance?” Blezard agreed but said the new system meant paramedics were deployed in a “controlled way”.

Emphasis added. Business continuity? Private sector organisations sometimes are saved from the osteomalacia that is characteristic of our time by the prospect of bankruptcy. Government bodies are not so fortunate. But never let it be said that the North West Ambulance Service learned nothing from the private sector. They were bang up to date with their buzzwords.

On the Times website, one of the most highly recommended comments was by William Croom-Johnson who said,

Death certificate: “Cause of death: business continuity”

But the most recommended comment of all came from “Mr N D”. It said,

Prior to London Bridge and Manchester Arena some people in this country may have lived under the entirely false impression that the emergency services would come to help them if they were ever caught up in any kind of serious incident.

Now we know with absolute certainty: they won’t. Forget it. They’re not coming. You’re on your own. Whether you live or die is far down their list of priorities.

Related old posts: Loss of nerve: “just standing there watching”

Loss of nerve: the Strathclyde Fire Brigade preferred not to rescue Alison Hume and Loss of nerve: the Sheriff’s judgement on the death of Alison Hume

“We have to wait for the fire brigade because of health and safety”

And the post back in 2007 that started the series, called simply Loss of nerve.

Charged with ‘aggravated misconduct’. For a tweet he made when he was 14.

Here is an extract from the report in today’s Times:

The Middlesbrough defender Marc Bola has been charged by the FA [Football Association] with aggravated misconduct for comments he made on social media when he was 14, nine years ago.

The FA has alleged that Bola, now 23, who signed for Middlesbrough from Blackpool in 2019, posted a ‘reference to sexual orientation.’ He is facing a written warning, an education course or a potential three-game ban for the post from 2012.

An FA statement read: “Middlesbrough FC’s Marc Bola has been charged with misconduct for a breach of FA Rule E3 in relation to a social media post on April 14, 2012.

If, rather than mouthing off on Twitter, the fourteen year old Bola had had the forethought to instead commit a violent crime meriting up four years imprisonment, the sentence would have been considered “spent” by now under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

It’s only a bloody song

“‘Arrests expected’ over anti-Catholic singing by group of Rangers fans,” the BBC reports.

Police say they expect to make arrests after footage emerged appearing to show Rangers supporters singing a sectarian song before Sunday’s Old Firm game.

A video on social media showed a group being escorted by police through Glasgow city centre while chanting an anti-Irish song referencing the famine.

In case you are wondering – and you would need the mind of a robot not to wonder – the lyrics of what I think is the song being referred to can be read here. The refrain consists of variations of “Well, the famine is over/ Why don’t you go home?”

I suppose I ought to whizz through the background. Glasgow has two famous football teams, Celtic and Rangers, collectively known as The Old Firm. Celtic was traditionally the Catholic team, Rangers the Protestant. The “troubles” in Northern Ireland sometimes have spilled over to the streets of Glasgow, though usually the conflict there is fought with fists, not guns.

The BBC goes on to quote Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins as saying that anti-Irish Catholic behaviour is “wholly unacceptable” and that “appropriate action” would be taken.

I am from an Irish family and was raised Catholic. Though my beliefs have diverged from Catholicism somewhat, I still find myself defending the Church of Rome often, because it is often slandered. I do not think I would like these particular Rangers fans if I were to meet them and I am quite sure they would not like me. Nonetheless I have a suggestion for Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins: accept it. It’s only a song. The more socially acceptable “Irish Rebel Songs” that Celtic supporters sing back are also only songs. If you treat the singing of a rude song as akin to casting a dangerous spell then people will want to try this powerful magic.

Loosely related: I recommend this conversation between Brian Micklethwait and Patrick Crozier about Northern Ireland. Though Brian describes the conversation as “low key”, both of them are willing to speculate far outside the boundaries of permitted polite opinion.

Edit: A comment to this post by Paul Marks has reminded me of another post I did about football chants back in 2014: “Up the Yids!”

Samizdata quote of the day

The BBC isn’t part of a free and pluralistic media, unafraid of questioning power. It is part of a State policy communication strategy which aims to convince the public to accept the authorised reality. Among these propagandist outlets the BBC is perhaps the most servile by virtue of its Charter and its reliance upon State funding.

The commercial broadcasters are also limited by Ofcom regulation and their dependence upon government advertising. The alleged pandemic saw the State become the UK’s leading advertiser.

When we consider that their second-biggest source of advertising revenue are the pharmaceutical corporations, the notion of an “independent” mainstream broadcast media in the UK is laughable.

Iain Davis

The history of the decline and fall of conservatism

The fifth stage is the crisis which has resulted not so much from Brexit as from Covid. Brexit was a revolt of a new Country party against the Court party of almost all assembled authorities, including both Labour and Conservative authorities. After some dithering, Johnson chose to side with Country. Hence 2016. But Covid has broken all of the traditions of opposition I have sketched thus far. For it is the Conservative Party – no matter how reluctantly – which stands at the head of a unified Court party which has done more than anyone since Walpole has done to ignore the Country, and not only ignore it, but oppress it. Johnson has presided over the establishment of an entirely technocratic politics of problem-and-solution which is, alas, not a politics at all, but the substitution of technique for politics. In this situation, the Government appears to be as committed as the opposition is to a unified politics of Universal Lockdown and Universal Vaccination and Universal Carbon Elimination in which no one is defending any aspect of the old order (including the church or universities) or even liberalism itself. The Conservatives have no longer got anything to defend. They have capitulated to their enemies and done it with a grotesque hyper-Disraelian-Bismarckian-Maoist-Malthusian flourish by way of forcing us to take the knee, take the mask and take the jab. They are not Tory, not liberal, certainly not even ‘austere’. They have found a magic money tree. They are presumably waiting for the seas to turn into lemonade. They are locking us into a magnificently communist-corporate hybrid order which will make the public-private partnerships of Blair and Brown look extremely pallid. If this continues then the only conservative thing about the Conservatives will be their inclination to hold on to their name.

Dr. James Alexander

This is an excellent essay specifically about the grotesquely misnamed Conservative Party in the UK, but some of it applies to other notionally ‘conservative’ groups elsewhere, particularly in the Anglosphere.