Sunday, 28 August 2016

UPDATE: Chief EDF Frog Back on the Case!

Well blow me, if it isn't the Chief Frog, right on cue!  The Telegraph is obviously hoping for another run of EDF radioactive-turd ads because they have given him a clear run at the propaganda slot: and what rot he is spouting. 
"The Government said it will take a short time to consider the project. That is understandable and I fully respect the decision ... 
... and have just this week been released from three weeks in the clinic after a major attack of apoplexy: now, I'm back in action to threaten you with Chinese Displeasure.
"China’s participation is much more than £6bn of inward investment. It brings the benefits of a 30-year partnership between EDF and CGN in nuclear construction in China, a country with the largest civil nuclear programme in the world"
Sounds nice - for EDF, at least.
"We know and trust our Chinese partners. Beyond that, the UK independent nuclear regulator has only granted Hinkley Point a nuclear site licence after being satisfied that security has been properly addressed. All staff on nuclear projects are rigorously vetted, wherever they come from. As is standard practice, the control systems at Hinkley Point C will be isolated from IT systems and the internet"
Touching stuff.  Hope it's all as secure as the works entrance to Hinkley Point (photo). Writing as someone who has frequently been on the inside of utilities with this approach to IT, I can safely say that any contractor who has access to those 'isolated systems' (which would be quite a few, over the years) has ample opportunity for mischief.
"Once the new-build nuclear industry is restarted, costs are expected to fall for future projects"
OK mon brave, you can come back when you don't need a subsidy and we'll be pleased to see you.  Bon courage with that.


Friday, 26 August 2016

Silly Season Over: Energy Troubles Ahead

I am not one to shout "the lights are going out" too readily, because the government will always make the Grid do whatever it takes, however costly & stupid, to keep homes and hospitals supplied.  But while everyone has been marvelling at Olympic success /  Corbyn lunacy / mass drownings on the beaches of Britain, over the summer we have been tipped off that there could be some real problems for power and gas supplies this coming winter.

On the power side, the pace of closures of coal-fired power stations this spring really caught the authorities by surprise.  We were always going to be down to about 1% capacity margin in the depths of next winter, and now it's going to be negative - even after the Grid has bribed a couple of the coal generators to stay open for just one more season, which is the only thing they have come up with.

And on the gas side, the UK's only really big gas storage facility (the large offshore Rough field) has run into serious problems of old age.   Centrica (the owner) is nursing it back into a few more years of reduced operations, hopefully in time for winter: but we know of old what happens in a cold snap when Rough falters - it's at very least a peaky spot-price spike.  We just about got away with it during a cold snap three years ago.  Next winter, anything much more than a week's worth of extreme cold and we may be (a) completely reliant on some fortuitous LNG cargos becoming available in the Atlantic (= not so cold in Spain + Eastern USA), or (b) stuffed.

[Rough isn't the only large and ageing provider of gas flexibility in winter we won't be able to rely on in future: the mighty Groningen field in the Netherlands, Europe's biggest for over 50 years (sic), and the very large Norwegian Troll are both ailing.  In the Dutch case, the hammering of Groningen for decade after decade is now causing fairly noticeable earthquakes.] 

The real killer will be winter 2017-18.  This game of keeping coal plant on life-support cannot be repeated indefinitely: it's in the nature of large capital assets of the steel'n'concrete variety that once they've been fingered for closure, discretionary maintenance work stops and the whole thing becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Recall also that back in 2008 the EDF Chief Frog said that by 2017 we'd be cooking Christmas lunch on Hinkley Point C electricity, because otherwise the lights would be going out.  Well, he lied about HPC but otherwise he knew that of which he spoke.

Yes folks, it was broadly forseeable way back then (which was when we started blogging about it!), but neither Labour nor the Coalition did anything serious about it.  Takes a while for those plump Xmas turkeys to come home to roost, but they are on the horizon - and they may escape the lunch table altogether.


Will anything happen with Hammond as Chancellor?

I am hearing that the new Chancellor is not planning to do much with the Autumn statement. Really as a new Government in fact, one would have expected quite chance of doing something radical to show a difference to Osborne's non-austerity austerity.

Instead, there is a huge problem with Heathrow where Theresa May is very exposed in her own constituency of Maidenhead, who are deeply anti-expansion. Yet Gatwick seems to be off the menu as BAA have been so successful with their lobbying for Heathrow or bust.

In terms of the economy, it desperately needs some change of tack from the low-rates, low-savings, low growth model created by the Cameroons.

The chance is to boost growth by raising infrastructure spend and relaxing planning laws further. Also to end the pensions triple lock which is denuding many areas of Government of any cash.

However we are likely to get further tax cuts for business, which have so little impact on business investment when personal taxes are so high (most business are privately owned, the personal tax always ends up being key for 99% of people).

Then there is the long overdue review of both public sector pensions provision and the personal tax code including NI. If not now, when?

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

TrainGate two - Choo choo.

Labour really miss Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson in their PR roles..
They used to have the very best. But these days, no one of any use at all..

The pink bus, possibly the most ill conceived political idea of the century, was actually topped by rushing round to have a Yoof Vlog with Russell Brand. Much too late in the cycle to have any impact that wasn't going to be negative.
Incredibly, even that disaster was bettered. By the Ed Stone. Which became the symbol of the whole, horrifically badly orchestrated Miliband election campaign.

Modern politicians need the best spinners, and the best image makers available.

Many years ago, my highly respected PR company girlfriend, came with me as I was doing the BBC's clothes show. 

{Who remembers that show? I did it 3 times! .. none of you remember it? It was the One Show of the 1990s.}
She had heard a radio bit I had done the week before and was very critical of it. Critical, but professional. She did the "This is you...This is what you want to convey. This is what you said..and why you sounded like a's how to avoid that in future." 

She really was very good. Headhunted by two top firms before she was 28. And she didn't start in PR until she was 25.
If this ex-girlfriend was advising Corbyn it would have gone.

- Why are we on this train? This is a long distance train. We don't want a train that has booked seats.
We want a commuter train. 
We want a Southern Trains commuter train. We might get lucky with a cancellation. 

Don't get on yet. Get an establishing shot. Show the packed platform. Film in tight. Get the staffers around you Jez. Tighter than that..Good. Look packed..

Hey? You!..Why are you filming this on an iphone? He wants to be the next Prime Minister. He's not uploading to Instagram for his mates like he's on the school bus? Get a proper camera..You don't have one? I'm sorry..who are you? You're the Comms chief ?..And you didn't think to bring a decent video camera?..Ok..I see its going to be a tough day.. train isn't packed..pull the plug now..what? You want to go on?

 These are ticket booked trains..this is going to come unstuck quite easily? Ok, if you insist.. 

..Then find the most packed carriage. Why are you sitting here? ..what's that you said..? "Sitting on the floor makes you look like you can't find a seat?" No..It makes you look like a beggar at a cash point. .. Don't put your legs look like you are hogging limited space..Don't pull your legs up - that look isn't for you. And take your jacket off. Its creasing and making deep shadows and looks untidy. And comb your hair..This is a film to explain some political point? Then try and reach out. The true believers don't care you look like a disillusioned teacher a week before retirement. You need to reach the ex-libs and the now going over to UKIP, former socialists.
Otherwise you might as well just send a tweet to the echo chamber.

Why are you sitting in front of the toilet? Your back is against the bog door. No one sits back against a door that might open. looks like you didn't realise. Or worse, don't care about others needs. Is that Private Eye you are pretending to read? Oh! you ARE reading it? You brought it along for the train journey..I see...well put it away. Get the Guardian..Who's got a copy of the Guardian among Team Jez, please? No One? Seamus Milne? You work fat the Guardian FFS! ,.You say... Its become a capitalist-imperialist-Blairite propaganda sheet? Mr Corbyn..This may be picked up by foreign media ...
Look..You're not reading Private Eye..Reading Private Eye is an invitation that gets you on the cover of Private Eye? Go down this "packed" train and get a Guardian or a Metro..or Angling Times. In fact ..forget that..Don't get anything..You are addressing the don't need any media..certainly not 'old media' Jeremy..You need to sort your legs out. You have them knees together and flopped into a corner. And this cretin is filming from above. You look like a Casualty actor, playing a disabled victim who's fallen from a wheelchair. 

Why are you still filming this on a phone? We can't hear what he says..He's on a moving train, in a corridor. And you are trying to get his words on a phone?

Jeremy..There is no such word as ram-packed..Its either Packed. .. Rammed... Jammed, or Jam-packed. Do it over.. 

Bend one knee up, put one leg half under you. Then rest..CASUALLY REST.. one arm on the knee..on the up knee Jez..Ok..Why are we filming this here. Either get in the bog and say this was the only seat and make a joke about Waterloo. Or film by the carriage door so over your shoulder the packed train interior is visible. Then you are standing up and don't look so homeless and tramp like. Spare £3.50p for a bottle of Virgin Trains Elder-flower, guv'nor?

You are concerned that diminishes the message, Mr Milne? What message is that?
The one that tells people  that trains are quite full?
 That since 1991 you have needed to book in advance for a journey? 
That the reserved seats empty after the first station?
That if you move along you may find an empty seat?
 And if you don't ask the train crew.

Everyone knows this already. This isn't news. It isn't policy. Its just a message of the bleedin' obvious.
If you want to show the merits of nationalisation, go on a nationalised, efficient train in Europe. If you want to show a bad service, go to London Bridge any Friday night. 

Then say
 "This is shite..we will fix it by doing XYZ and it will cost ABC and take PQR amount of time"  

..Right ..this is my stop. I'm off..oh..Milne..its really the end of the line for you too..Luckily you didn't give up the day long..chumps.."

Ahh, she was good. She was earning £60,000 when she was 28, back in the 1990s.  The following year she gave it all up to have a baby and quit for good. Never went back. Women in the workforce..
but that's a post for another day.

Choo-Choo - Silly Season continues.

I was reading the obituary of Sir Antony Jay, masterly creator of Yes, Minister this morning

It made me think this morning that the really challenge of any comedy is to make it funnier than real life, or at least appear so.

Following  Yes Minister we had 20 years later the brilliant The Thick of It - reflecting the coarsening tone of public discourse and also the hectic madness of a 24 hour news cycle.

But yesterday we have a brilliant show, one of the world's best PR experts in Richard Branson against one of the world's worst, in Jeremy Corbyn. For anyone else, pictures of him walking past empty seats to made a little film about packed trains would be a resigning issue - after all it suggests complete lack of judgement and nous.

Oddly though, his opponent is in fact we find a comedic character, Owen Smith, who is actually worse as a public performer than Corbyn. Not as bad, or so, but actually worse. For example today, he passionately said he is opposed to Brexit and will make Labour do everything possible to stop it. Then, having besmirched democracy he calls Jeremy Corbyn a lunatic whilst on stage.

I mean, FFS, how can you do this? How can you be so bad. Literally, a man off the street could put in a better performance than either of these two.

Jim Hacker is a titan by comparison.