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The state applauds itself for solving 0.3% of a problem

By Mark Littlewood
June 24th, 2009 at 2:00 am | 2 Comments | Posted in Economics

kidneyVicki Chapman, of the Human Tissues Authority (a taxpayer-funded health quango), is falling over herself to proclaim the dazzling success of altruistic live organ donation.

Apparently, a total of 25 brave people have offered to donate a spare kidney to a stranger. The number of volunteers in year one was ten. In year two, it was fifteen. Ms. Chapham “did not expect to see the number rise so significantly after just one year”. (From practically zilch, to a little bit more)

These twenty-five donations will reduce the number of people in the UK in need of a kidney from 7,000 to 6,975.

Hardly” job done”, is it?

Assuming that there isn’t about to be a 3000 % nationwide rise in altruism, does anyone have a credible plan to properly tackle this problem?

Clue: if it’s legal to give something away, it should be legal to sell it.

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Is this man the Tories’ and LibDems’ worst nightmare?

By Mark Littlewood
June 23rd, 2009 at 9:15 pm | 25 Comments | Posted in EU Politics, UK Politics

nigel-farageNigel Farage is the leader of a political party that was supposed to have been consigned to the dustbin of electoral history. After a flirtation with the  TV celebrity Robert Kilroy-Silk and a one-off electoral breakthrough, it  is was all going to end in tears.

The remnants of the United Kingdom Independence Party were to be picked over and shared out. This bunch of “loonies, extremists and fruitcakes” (to quote David Cameron) would then disappear back under whichever rock they’d crawled out from under.

Bad news then for Mr. Cameron – and any others who expected to laugh knowingly as UKIP entered its death throes. The party will field 500 candidates at the next General Election and may have found a genuine means to build its infrastructure after its sensational second place showing in the Euro elections. UKIP’s poll ratings (usually clumped together with the growing % for “Others”) are as high as 8% for the Westminster elections. This is no longer just a day of headlines about a quirky party doing surprisingly well in a one-off set of obscure elections. UKIP is here to stay.

Farage set himself the objective of winning ten seats in this month’s European Parliamentary elections. A big ask. He’d pledged to tender his resignation as Party Leader if he failed to hit this target – and no one disbelieved him. He comfortably exceeded it. He may be considered a fringe figure in some quarters, but he is now a definite feature of Britain’s political landscape.

Nigel Farage has made a string of very sharp tactical and strategic moves. He has a slim, streamlined, but very talented staff. Gawain Towler, his chief lieutant, is a top-grade political asset with sharp organisational and communications judgement. Not just more personable than Damian McBride (most homo sapiens clear that hurdle), but highly intelligent too.

Unlike most politicians, Farage is not afraid to send himself up and when he does so, he comes across as a balanced man who is very comfortable in his own skin – in stark contrast to the anally-retentive members of the Westminster establishment.

The really intriguing thing is that under Farage, UKIP is attempting to reach out beyond its narrow constitutional objections to the European Union. At today’s launch of the Save our Pubs & Clubs Campaign, he just turned up unannounced, matter-of-fact, mingled with other guests and then gave a short, pithy and witty presentation.

This is the sort of fleetness of foot and flexibility that, frustratingly, the leader of the Liberal Party used to have when it was smaller. Grimond, Thorpe and Steel led only a handful of MPs. This meant that their ability to set the party’s agenda themselves was considerable. A regrettable downside of having many more MPs (alongside a farcical, choking network of internal committees) is that Nick Clegg has to spend a considerable amount of time  managing the party rather than just getting out there and “doing stuff.” Clegg’s day-to-day diary seems closer to that of a diplomat or ambassador, rather  than that of a campaigner.

Farage is latching on to a number of freedom issues – such as the smoking ban – which the three major parties are united in ignoring . UKIP  are beginning to couch their Euroscepticism within a wider narrative of  antagonism towards the state.  This doesn’t, of course, guarantee an automatic launch pad to  10 Downing Street, but it is a very clever “niche” strategy.

When – after the next election – the Tories become the third major party to appear to renege on a commitment to a Euro referendum, expect UKIP to have a field day.

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Eco-warriors rally against trees

By Julian Harris
June 23rd, 2009 at 12:40 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

ecoSworn enemies they might be, but I can’t help but deem the reaction of environmentalist groups to news that BP has been planting trees to be somewhat unreasonable.

A little context first: BP has funded a £10m project to plants trees in Scotland. According to the scheme, it has already planted 3.5 million trees, which apparently suck up 377,000 tonnes of carbon over a century. By Jove.

Yet the response from Friends of the Earth and the WWF is hardly welcoming. They both condemn the announcement as a “greenwash,” with the latter unable to resist referring to BP’s “dirty oil money”. Such groups have condemnded tree-planting schemes in the past for being “a dangerous distraction.”

With a more positive spin on things, groups such as the Forest Alliance and Forestry Commission have highlighted how these plantings aid valuable research into carbon sequestration.

Such valuable research is also being carried out by scientists examining the potential for safe use of genetically modified trees. However, another report explains how such research is itself being blocked by anti-GM NGOs.

“GM technology could significantly improve trees and there is great need for innovation in the face of climate change” says the report on SciDev.net. Yet heavy lobbying is stifling research into this area, with groups looking to “regulate GM trees out of existence.”

All a bit crazy, no? Almost makes me wonder if Prince Charles is behind it.

Is Bercow’s Buckingham now a marginal seat?

By Mark Littlewood
June 22nd, 2009 at 10:47 pm | 10 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

PD*4568006Following the election of John Bercow as Speaker, with the vast majority of his 322 votes coming from Labour MPs, it’s worth considering  the likely reaction of voters in Buckingham.

This is a seat about as rock solid Tory as they come. The result in 2005 was:

Bercow J.S.* Conservative 27,748 57.44%
Greene D.M. Labour 9,619 19.91%
Croydon L.J. LibDem 9,508 19.68%
Williams D.J. UKIP 1,432 2.96%

 

Assuming that the three main parties observe the protocol of not standing against The Speaker, this looks like a great opportunity for someone running as an Independent or possibly as an Independent Conservative.  After all, Bercow has been acting as a pseudo-Labour MP for some time.  He won’t have the Conservative Party label by his name next time round. There are a range of very serious expenses allegations against him which have yet to be justified or apologised for. The Cameroons would be delighted to see him defeated at the ballot box, and may dispatch him as Speaker after the next election anyway.

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David Laws confirmed as nominator for Bercow

By Julian Harris
June 22nd, 2009 at 6:57 pm | Comments Off on David Laws confirmed as nominator for Bercow | Posted in Uncategorized

Courtesy of the Guardian, John Bercow has named his nominators. Notably only one Tory graces the list:

  • Dai Davies
  • Charles Walker
  • Malcolm Bruce
  • Adam Price
  • Karen Buck
  • Sandra Gidley
  • Julie Morgan
  • Natascha Engel
  • Peter Kilfoyle
  • David Laws
  • Anne Begg
  • Pete Wishart
  • Sadiq Khan
  • Patricia Hewitt
  • Mark Durkan

Hmm, I’m sure David has his reasons…

Notably, Malcolm Bruce (panelist of Liberal Vision’s second ever conference event) and Sandra Gidley make up the Lib Dem contingent.

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