Friday 14 July 2023

Smack of Firm Government?

Seven months ago I wrote that in his problems with public sector pay on many fronts, Sunak had been immeasurably helped by the sheer number of concurrent disputes, and the extreme claims being made in some of them.  There was 'obviously' no scope for him to concede them all, so he would find it easier to resist[1] them en bloc.

And thus, it seems, things have transpired.  How many PMs have even been able to stand at the lectern and say, no more talking, that's yer lot  -  and plausibly get away with it?  But, plus or minus the junior doctors, he might have done.

Even more remarkably, he even chucked in a culture-war twist: the award is to be partially funded 'by "significantly" increasing charges for migrants coming to the UK when they apply for visas and the levy they pay to access the NHS'.  To my amazement this has been very little commented upon (yet), and we may guess any belated squeals will not be originating officially from the Opposition front bench[2]. 

Is this the fabled Smack of Firm Government?  It has some of the trappings.  And in Starmer's current mode of saying 'no' (to the considerable dismay of the Left & the greenies) to everything that anyone suggests deserves a call on his largesse when putatively in power, presumably he's essentially going to take this development lying down - though it is always possible to script a hostile soundbite in response to anything.

So how does it all play?  Does it basically strengthen Sunak's standing with voters?   Or will it be a cause of sullen resentment?  A lot will depend on "whether it works", i.e. whatever inflation does next.  In any event, Starmer's stern stance makes resentment a lot harder to parlay into votes for Labour, so maybe it's the smaller parties that pick up the resenters.  Which, of course, may be a decent second-best for the Tories at the next GE.



(a) the predicted cries of anguish haven't been long in coming - from "charities, unions and politicians".  "Borderline racist", they cry.  But not Labour politicians, naturally (see above).

(b) see strikethrough below and dearieme's comment 


[1] Of course, BTL here Kev has pointed out the remarkable inflation-busting 'award' already made (passively, under the triple-lock) to pensioners, possibly to be repeated next time too.  But, hey, priorities / politics / votes.

[2] I find it hard to believe we've heard the last of this.  Not least, because the Tories are likely to big it up in order to provoke a leftie response. 



Old Git Carlisle said...

I may be naïve but why are not potential employers of imported labour required to provide accommodation and support services for their new employees.

jim said...

Sunak might as well stick - at least until election time when he will be put out of his misery or until a general strike (very unlikely) but possibly the only weapon to force HMG into defeat. A pyrrhic victory anyway. Economically the Tories are defeated anyway, the Tories broke the economy and can't fix it. He only dares to play the 'that's yer lot card' because he has an iron rod stuck up his bum and has no choice.

Now just suppose Labour does not win the next election - they might be wise to sit this one out but won't because they are desperate to play with the wheels and dials of power. But if they lost what would/could the Tories do, therein lies the difficulty - which Tory faction might win come 2024/5? The right wing ERG lot or Sunak's supporters or even the Trussites.

Not easy to see what they would/could do. Which applies to Labour as well. Labour will have strong pressure from the Left to spend and dish out pay rises. Not considering which Labour faction will be on top. So we are left with the prospect of voting for two parties and getting one of say six factions all of whom hate each other and will fight from 2025 onwards.

Lurking behind the scenes is the US v China spat with Russia being a nuisance. And US elections at the same time as ours. A lot of instability.

Worse, the US looks to be hoovering up all the useful technologies and industries for itself and sod the rest of us. All in the name of holding back China. Well that idea will hold back Europe as well and the UK is left playing tail-end-charley picking up scraps.

Caeser Hēméra said...

It's not like he has many options I guess, the abject failure of governments for decades to grasp any nettle means there's no headroom.

The migrant visa increase might just backfire, if it reduces migration _without_ a corresponding move to get UK citizens off benefits and into work, then we're back to no one to do the work. Also, when bringing in migrants to the NHS, do they pay that visa charge and levy? Or does the NHS to sweeten the pot?

Unless the Tories are willing to stop farting about and actually grasp some nettles in another term, they're just delaying the inevitable. May as well rip off the plaster now, get through an interkeirrum, and see if the Tories are willing to return to a level of seriousness.

Anonymous said...

"then we're back to no one to do the work"

There are plenty of people "employed" in nail bars, eyebrow threading, and Kurdish barbers who can do the work.

If we'd had our bipartisan mass immigration policy in 1700, we'd never have had an Industrial Revolution. When an employer's first thought is "where can I get some cheap people from?" rather than "is there a more efficient way of doing this?", an economy is doomed to low-wage stasis - which is what we have.

"The main textile-buying organisation has said Britain will be short of half a million hand-loom weavers by 1730, unless migration controls are relaxed"

"Young people are increasingly turning away from equine-related employment, the coal mine owners said this week. Without men to lead animals round the horse-gins, mines will be flooded. The owners are calling for up to 100,000 Turks to be allowed in to fill the posts"

Caeser Hēméra said...

@anon - employment is employment, matters not a whit if what they legally do is not to your taste.

Quite a lot of them about, paying their rates and taxes. I imagine a few are cash only, but anyone who has owned a cash business in the last couple of centuries will tell you there is a difference between what the taxman needs to know and what their finances need to know. It's a poor hairdresser without a major sum stashed away for a rainy day. A long-deceased relative owned a chip shop in the 50s, did a lot better out of it than the taxman ever did.

The reality of the situation is that there is a lot of work out there without corresponding job seekers, the ideal is to tackle the vast numbers on long term benefits, but this is not something that seems to be unduly bothering the government at the moment.

The other option is immigration, and it's the one the government at large, and the Treasury in particular, is pursuing, mostly as it's easy.

Won't be too long before depressed looking people with blue rosettes come knocking at our doors, looking for votes. Tell them the alternatives.

Caeser Hēméra said...

Speaking of cash in hand, it does come with risks.

More than one abattoir has made use of less than official labour. I know of one who made the mistake of letting one of the less than official workers deliver a wagon load of meat.

Monday morning was entertaining when said refrigerated wagon, along with all the meat, had failed to turn up at its destination. Nor had said worker - who was only known by their first name, and whose home address no one knew.

I imagine they'd got a hefty 5 figure payday for that, if not 6 if they were wily enough. A bit better than the £100 cash in hand they'd have otherwise gotten.

This was the 80s though, different times.

dearieme said...

"the remarkable inflation-busting 'award' already made (passively, under the triple-lock) to pensioners"

Oh balls; the pensioners got a CPI rise. By definition that is inflation-matching not inflation-busting.

jim said...

Well, Ms Braverman can do nothing about the rubber boat people and indeed the rubber boat system acts as an excellent quality filter - for young, fit, capable people. She would do more good if she sent them to Nissen huts on the outskirts of Wokingham and Virginia Waters and gave them an NI number.

The wider question is some kind of new industrial revolution. We are now at about 80% service industries. Notoriously difficult to improve productivity in the cutting of hair or making of coffee or the servicing of clients. As it stands we have about 10 million 'unemployed' but they are students, carers, young sick or old sick with only about 1.5 million actually unemployed. Looking around a fair number are likely unemployable in a high tech or service industry anyway. So we need to bring in new stock.

Back to industrial revolution. Likely industries are cars, iPhones, semiconductors, pharma, insurance, finance and more services. No one is likely to come up with a new spinning jenny or mine pump, time travel and galactic travel are out, there are very very few good new money making ideas around. The Americans have seen the future and it doesn't work.

Back in the day the old cotton towns and the canals and railways did not require 10 years of planning inquiries and tree hugger protests. Now all too much trouble, build it somewhere else, Vietnam say. Anything can be done anywhere. So we can make ourselves poor by clinging on to some Jane Austen notion of a bucolic idyll. Except those who organise and finance 'somewhere else' will get rich and get to hang on to it like the chip shop owner.

As for 'green', a good way to extract money on pseudo benefits but in the end global warming will catch up with us. A better way would be to trim about 4Bn off the human population - and keep it that way. Might be a few objections from the fastidious. Anyway, no efficient way to do the job is visible, a research project maybe.

Nick Drew said...

dearieme - that's a fair one. Struck through.

Bill Quango MP said...

White hydrogen in the MSM.

The great white hope?

Anonymous said...

Jim - "young, fit, capable people".

You mis-spelled "fighting age males".

Human beings are not fungible units of production. 5 guys from Syria <>= 5 guys from Bristol. Still less 5 guys from Sudan.

"no one is likely to come up with a new spinning jenny or mine pump"

We literally don't know until it's been invented.

But... if we don't have the productive infrastructure around that enabled a James Dyson or other "man in shed tinkering" - remember Apple started in a garage, but at a time when the US was world power in small scale electronics. I remember when Texas Instruments and Motorola were THE people to get your transistors and operational amplifiers from.

Nearly all that productive infrastructure, much expanded, is in China now, some in Japan.

I wonder if the next advances might be in the micro rather than macro world.

Anonymous said...

BQ - I see hydrogen has fallen at the first hurdle - public acceptance.

"Despite being more combustible and leakier than natural gas, energy firms have insisted that hydrogen can be made safe and have engaged in concerted lobbying of both the government and Labour to convince them of its merits. But the assurances have failed to convince people asked to take part in large-scale trials of the technology. Whitby, near Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, was to host the first village-wide trial of hydrogen home heating but the government ditched the plan this month in the face of local opposition."

Anonymous said...

But the thing about hydrogen that for me makes it a total waste of time is that you can only really create it from electricity splitting water. Why not just use the electricity? OK, maybe some niche use where you have a hydro plant at full bore at 3 am, split water and burn the hydrogen for power at 3pm, but it's generally pretty pointless.

dearieme said...

Anon .... no, for God's sake don't burn the hydrogen, stick it into a fuel cell.

(If there are economical fuel cells available. Are there?)

Anonymous said...

"young, fit, capable people"

"Men housed at Britain's first asylum camp have been told not to hang around in playgrounds or carry weapons. Each Channel migrant who arrives at the former RAF airbase at Wethersfield in Essex is handed advice on 'how to be a good neighbour'. It comes as a judge yesterday gave the green light for a full judicial review of the Home Office's decision to house up to 1,700 men there and another 2,000 at the Dambusters' former base, RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire after legal challenge by two councils. A two-day hearing at the High Court in London began on Wednesday - just as the first 47 migrants were taken to Wethersfield. All single men, they arrived in Britain by small boat from northern France last weekend."

Nick Drew said...

@ Anons, 11:29 / 11:34; dearieme. The 'first hurdle' for H2 - certainly as regards residential use - is just as much logic & economics as public acceptance

if there is a role for H2 it will be in industrial applications. If the stor-ability of H2 helps a bit, then great.

BTW, the Germans are going gung-ho for H2, as only Germans can. They think it's the only way they'll remain an energy-intensive manufacturing super-power. They'll be the ones to find out the problems. Let'em. The technology isn't difficult - there won't be much 'catching up' to do if they prove it can work: unlike making solar panels / wind turbines / batteries

Anonymous said...

ND - but the energy needed to make hydrogen ... why not just use that energy?

Don Cox said...

The problem with energy is to find a good way to store it.

One possible way is to synthesize hydrocarbons for fuel.


Nick Drew said...

anon @ 11:23 - that logic is absolutely the right starting-point for consideration of many potential applications for H2, not least residential heating


(a) there are the offsetting factors of H2's (i) stor-ability (much, much easier than storing elec); (ii) transportability in suitable infrastructure (can be easier than elec); (iii) potentially being made from "free" or even negatively-priced (i.e. genuinely surplus) elec.

This last point can be valid in, for example, developed elec markets with lots of wind & solar (e.g. Eu), where negative prices are (quite naturally) occurring increasingly often**, or Gulf oil states where methane is often effectively a waste product, and its alternative deployment - LNG - is vastly more expensive to 'manufacture' than is H2 using the same gas. Obvs, some folks will be sniffy about H2 produced from CH4. But you can (pretend to) bury the CO2. The Germans, in their manic enthusiasm to kick-start an H2 market ASAP, sometimes talk about importing H2 from wherever in the first instance, and switch to locally-produced "green" H2 as and when

How the various +/- stack up is a matter for proper analysis, not sweeping a priori conclusions. Most disinterested authorities conclude that this means NO to residential heating use, but YES to some industrial applications, e.g. where a direct flame is required and elec can't substitute, and very heavy diesel plant. (Always assuming you are determined not to use methane / diesel etc)

**Note however, that negative elec prices may not last forever because H2 won't be the only application keen to have an ultra-cheap / negatively-priced raw material. Batteries, of course, are currently the other main candidate - gridscale batteries and EVs are what we currently see that are keen to position themselves thus. A lot better than paying windfarms to "switch off"

I may make a post out of this stuff

Anonymous said...

I just wonder how much energy is lost in the process of

a) converting electricity to something else - let's say hydrogen. Do you have your conversion plant nearby, what are line losses like etc etc. Plus the wind blows in different places at different times...

b) converting hydrogen back to lecky. Line losses, heat, losses do the energy sums add up if you include build costs which you definitely should

c) ye olde surplus energy tends to arise in wet and windy and mountainous places - Norway and Iceland for starters. Iceland have a massive aluminium plant to soak up that energy, in the way that we once did in Anglesey and at Kinlochleven - but how would any get here? Is that large undersea DC link still in the plans?

Seen this btw? Looks like we might sacrifice our remaining steel industry to Gaia. From 28 million tons to 6 in 50 years, meanwhile China produces a billion tons.

I see most of the biggest and most strategic Chinese companies are state-owned, btw. Obviously China didn't get the memo.

Diogenes said...

Perhaps instead of hydrogen, we could switch to the domestic supply to nitrous oxide. At least when we hear of the latest firm government policy, we could give ourselves a laugh.

Bill Quango MP said...

The big idea with white hydrogen, is it occurs from current ( or lack of) fracking methods.
Or, as one MSM report suggested, it bubbles up from the rocks, naturally. Perhaps they were thinking a bit like a thermal pool? Build a power station atop that!

The National Grid put a bit of a damper on the idea with their current guide on white hydrogen.

White hydrogen is a naturally occurring, geological hydrogen found in underground deposits and created through fracking. There are no strategies to exploit this hydrogen at present.

jim said...

Forgive me if I have got this wrong. A 42 US gallon barrel of oil when burnt makes 426Kg of CO2 - around 215 cubic metres - which if compressed back into 158 litres (42 gallon US) results in a pressure of about 20,000 psi in old money. A bit more than the original well pressure.

In short this suggests squeezing CO2 back into old oil wells is asking for trouble. Not a game with much future in it.

Then we have the growing of trees for carbon offset - a recipe for fraud and obfuscation. Short of turning CO2 into oxygen and lumps of carbon to be heaped up or shoved into underground mines, each lump checked, and signed off by 100 bureaucrats, the game seems a bit hopeless.

As for 'white' hydrogen, I don't think there is an awful lot of it about, not in handy power station type places anyway.

Anonymous said...

Woah. Uxbridge result and a message for Sunak. "We don't like firm government and people that tells us we can't pollute" They'd rather crash and burn [literally]

Good news for Boris as there is still a core of voters that want to party on. Trillions in debt - put it on the card baby, and turn up the volume.

Sunak's time is up and Boris will be only too keen to come back.