Monday, 15 July 2019

Nuclear Finance: Stuffed by the French Again

Later this week, we're told, the long-trailed announcement will be made of a new approach to financing nuclear power plants in the UK.

As we've long been warmed up to accept, no company is willing to take upon itself nuclear construction risk.  That was just about all that remained in the lap of developers, after EDF had blazed the trail with the outrageous Hinkley Point C contract that May so cravenly signed back in 2016 under stern instruction of the miserable tadpole Hollande (thereby proving to the entire watching world she was unfit to conduct the Brexit process).  But EDF itself quickly signalled that if we wanted any more nukes the next deal would need to be even better.

(Note always that HPC is a not-quite-free option for EDF - they still have no obligation to complete construction of the plant.  It can be argued they have no idea how to do it anyway, seeing that Flammanville has been put back yet another few years ...)

Still, the frogs are dangling the next one, Sizewell C, before the desperate eyes of HMG - and of course the Chinese and Japs and Koreans can all make their own offerings - if the contract is rich enough, and free of risk for themselves.

The chosen financing model to gratify their rapacity is the Regulated Asset Base model.  Details are awaited; but it's a familar enough tool, used across the USA in various forms for decades, and latterly for that grotesque and unnecessary project, the Thames Tideway.  But familarity alone is no recommendation.

The lazy headlines are that the 'taxpayer' stands to pick up the tab for the inevitable monstrous cost overruns.  Maybe; but it's even more likely it will be the poor old electricity bill-payer, which may seem a fine distinction but it highlights an important point.  Everyone needs electricity (and water) and their utility value to all of us is so great, we can be made to pay almost anything for them.  No new taxes required.  By these means we can be, have been, and will again be screwed into the ground, giving foreign firms the right to enjoy themselves on a grand scale at our expense for many decades to come.

The only possible argument in favour is that nukes have only ever been built by public finance, so we may as well don the nose-pegs and get on with it.  That assumes we need them at all - and I say we don't.  Or, if we do, we're f****d, because manifestly the French don't know how to build them within, say, 10 years of their airy estimates - so we'll always need large-scale Plans B, C and D.  Why not just settle for a good, cost-effective Plan B and have done?

Anyhow, knowing that several of our BTL regulars actually favour new nukes - have at it in the comments!


Saturday, 13 July 2019

Charisma vs Strategy: the Tory Leadership Choice

While the Tory Party agonises over which 'unt is to lead us to glory, time for some weekend musing over the rather extreme choice the two candidates present us with - almost a caricature of the dichotomies of colourful vs grey, big-picture vs detail etc etc.  I haven't read anything particularly interesting on this in the MSM; certainly not this very feeble offering from the Graun on leadership vs management.

In times that call for genuinely serious political leadership - analogies with war don't seem to me in any way overblown - one has been hoping upon hope that the hour will indeed bringeth forward the man.  The twin tasks before the next PM - to prevail against the EU, and in the next GE (though not necessarily in that order) - represent two enormously challenging theatres of political warfare that canot be avoided.  Admittedly, success in whichever epic battle comes first could materially enhance the prospects for the second ... but that didn't help Harold Godwinson, did it?  And the consequences of his ultimate failure weren't just long-lasting, they were kinda fundamental.     

Bringeth forth the man ...  Neither of the two hopefuls is a Churchill, despite Johnson's risible attempts to associate himself with that more propitious piece of our history (much like Gordon Brown writing his 'eight portraits' on Courage. Would he have included Aung San Suu Kyi today, hmmm?)  I struggle to find an encouraging historical parallel of a Boris-type taking the reins in such dire circumstances and plucking triumph from the jaws of defeat - though I could imagine there's an obscure Roman emperor who might fit the bill.  We have of course had some personally ineffectual kings down the years, but the successes under their reigns have been down to powerful players at the next level down - and where do we identify those today?

So here's a short piece I can recommend, on how to understand charisma - which is just about the only potentially positive commodity which Boris clearly offers in spades.  Whether reading that makes you any the more hopeful, I don't know. 

By way of balance, is there anything of substance worth saying about Hunt?  Actually, I think there is.  You have seen me before, tearing my hair over May's complete lack of anything resembling a strategy, in the face of people (Selmayr, Robbins) who clearly knew exactly what they were doing.  But here's Hunt who has actually published something on Brexit that is recognisably strategic.  If you haven't seen his 10-Point Plan before, take a read.

I'm not suggesting this is a work of genius.   And you can argue it's a pretty rum state of affairs when these things need to be published.  But secrecy over strategy isn't necessarily required in all circumstances: in some conflicts, one or other side's strategy (or both) may be so obvious to all parties - indeed, they may flaunt it - that secrecy is out of the question: but that may not weaken them materially.  And whoever produced this document for Hunt can also, presumably, be pressed into service by Johnson - and be invited to contribute to the GE strategy, whenever that's needed.

Your weekend thoughts on the Johnson/Hunt choice?


Friday, 12 July 2019

Labour / Couldn't Make It Up / Part 194

Most of my friends who have traditionally been card-carrying Labour supporters have quit the Peoples Party now.  Despair and disgust.  Several have joined the Greens.  Over a beer last night one of these, a City professional living trendily in the East End, and heretofore considering it his social duty to the benighted borough to be engaged in good works via the Party, told me the story in his manor.

The thriving constituency GMC has been taken over by Momentum.   As part of their committee-packing drive, they replaced the LBGT rep - a cheerful gay chap whom everyone likes - with a straight, white male Union official.  And they replaced the BAME rep - an Indian lady who'd been doing the job proudly and effectively for many years - with another straight, white male Union man.  Incidentally, both of these carpet-bagging gits are middle aged, which isn't perhaps the image Momentum likes to project.

Multiply this a hundredfold across the land and I'm guessing the loyal-voter base quickly starts to erode, one way or the other.  It could well be put to the test quite soon, we must suppose.

Over the weekend we'll have a look at what might be facing them across the political divide.


UPDATE Makes this all the more amusing! 
"Momentum announces drive to help Labour members deselect MPs - says process will clear way for greater diversity in parliament"

Thursday, 11 July 2019

The conversation should be privatising all education, not nationalising it

Image result for ash sarkar private schools

So, as is common these days, the very nutty communists who inhabit the Labour party (have you seen a book called Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastani? Drivel does not begin to describe how awful it is), have latched a new proposal into the labour party conference which decides their manifesto:

1 - Outlaw private education
2 - Confiscate the endowments and money from these schools to 'share' amongst State Schools
3 - End Charitable status to make doubly sure no Private schools start again.

Scary does not really do the above Justice. There are many, many reasons why the above it a terrible idea. The one that sticks out to me though is that, like our Top Universities, people from all over the world pay an absolute fortune to have their kids educated here - in fact I would bet it is one of the main reasons there are so many billionaires in the UK, they can educate their kids here.

So, in the real world, we should be thinking how do we extend the education opportunities provided by private schools to all? What is the secret.

Well the obvious piece is money. In Universities, the Government introduced fees to try and help Universities improve their offering, act like a supplier rather than an union and stop kidding people with silly Kite Flying degrees. Lo and Behold broadly this has been a success!

Thus the real change that would help state schools would be a voucher system for parents, who could spend the money on the schooling they wanted - local comp, technical colleges, religious schools, private schools. The good would prosper and the bad would reform or die. Just like in Higher Education, market forces would drive up standards overall.

You could even reduce massively the burdensome national curriculum as parents could choose they types of schooling suited to their children which is not always based on A-C grades a GCSE.

This would be a much more successful route than killing the successful bit of secondary education in order to level down the playing field.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The Ordure that the Left Pour on Themselves

There's an inclination to laugh at this but it wouldn't be right, because it's serious.  After decades of leftist encouragement, direct or otherwise, for all manner of 'identitarian' nonsense, the chickens have come home to roost.  The run-of-the-mill 'well-intentioned Left' of academia is now confronted with a Kafkaesque, reductio ad absurdum nightmare: under frontal assault (and I do mean frontal) by the militant 'trans identity' movement to a point where freedom of speech - and much else besides - is quite evidently a thing of the past in several UK universities.  (There are universities in the USA just as bad.)

Sit down, pour a stiff drink and read this: a compendium of appalling personal accounts compiled by the redoubtable and greatly-to-be-admired Kathleen Stock, on behalf of rational feminist educators everywhere.

But not just them, because this is truly baleful and if not stopped in its tracks will eventually flood out of academe and inflict itself on us all.  And - I remind you - Penny Mordaunt, Tory MP and Secretary of State for Defence, is complicit also.

For the antidote, let me even things up and suggest you read this, too, which restores a little of what the equally redoubtable Brian Leiter terms "intellectual hygiene".   Written in a nicely ironic tone, but making the point strongly at the same time.