Red-Tape fire-starter Francis Maude helped made UKIP chair Steve Crowther a millionaire

As I wrote previously, I thought that Steve Crowther, UKIP’s machiavellian chairman, had made a fortune in the world of Ad agencies and marketing. He co-founded a company called April Six in 2000 and then sold it to The Mission Marketing Group in 2007 for £9.45M.

What I had not realised was that the chairman of the Board of MMG at the time of the sale was none other than Francis Maude, now Regulation finder-general and chief fire-starter to the bonfire of red tape, that this Government is so proud to crow about at every opportunity. Oh, and he also set up Policy Exchange.

It’s fair to say that under Maude’s chairmanship MMG went on a spending spree, and were proud of this approach to expanding their company, which they called “buy and build”. This is what market analysts were saying about them back in the heady days of 2007. Basically the founders had raised cash by converting to a public company in 2006, and added to that by borrowing heavily from the banks, to go on this spending spree. The company was valued at £33M in 2007, with debts of £20M.  April Six founders Steve Crowther and Fiona Shepherd were paid £9.45M for their business, and this was paid partly in shares (1.19M each). You can see MMG’s share price in the chart below or for an interactive version, click here. It’s not pretty. At that time (3rd April 2007) Crowther’s shares were worth 135p a share, making his worth £1.61M. By the time Maude had left the chairmanship at the end of 2009, they were worth 24p each, making Crowther’s worth £286,000.  Of course, he still had the other £3M in cash he was paid by MMG.

TMMG share price jpeg




Decline and Fall. After MMG purchased Steve Crowther’s April Six, their share price crashed.

Two things come to mind from this microcosmic look into the impact of the deepest economic crisis certainly since the 1930s and possibly longer (it hasn’t finished yet).

1. Crowther will have lost about £1.4M if he hadn’t managed to sell the Mission Marketing shares before their value evaporated. From what I can see, he didn’t. I can’t imagine that will do much good for UKIP/Tory relations, while Maude is in the cabinet.

2. Maude’s actual experience of the private sector is limited to a series of directorships in blue-chip city banks (and Asda), which he gained after losing his MP’s seat in the 1992 election; and a series non-exec chairmanship and director roles in addition to MMG, many of which were in the PR world. Maude will have been involved in a number of companies whose value disappeared during the Crash. Did he have to take any financial penalty as a result? Did he suffer like so many employees who lost their jobs, found themselves unable to pay their mortgages, because of decisions made by people like Maude? Of course not.

Now, Francis Maude is hell bent on a Mission of his own, to dismantle public services, to remove regulations that protect public interests; and to “shrink the state”. Presumably he believes that the private sector does things so much better, because the market is king.

Here, he talks about privatising the NHS, by setting up employee-owned mutuals. Mutuals that, like academies and free schools, start life being gifted public property and provided with subsidised public services.

The story also reminds me of another non exec chair – Matt Ridley, who presided over the demise of Northern Rock. Paid £315,000 a year for his Northern Rock chair post, Ridley was lambasted for being asleep at the wheel while Northern Rock went on a massive borrowing spree just when global money markets collapsed. Curious why Northern Rock took on a scientist as their chair? His daddy, the 4th Viscount, was chair of Northern Rock from 1987 to 1992.

Matt Ridley is now visiting scholar at Policy Exchange.

Posted in deregulation, Think Tanks, UKIP | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

UKIP Chairman Steve Crowther – Master of Spin, and lover of Sharks?

UKIP chairman and North Devonian Steve Crowther was heavily involved in campaigning against a windfarm out in the Bristol Channel, and worked with the local CPRE group, as I described in a previous blog.

At that time I had singularly failed to find out much at all at Crowther’s pre-UKIP history. Thanks to help from friends, I have found out rather more.

Although I have found out nothing about Crowther during the 80s other than that he was a press officer for someone, and a trade journalist, he does appear in the record in 1991. At that time he joined Marketing firm Holmes Marchant, who now describe themselves as a brand design consultancy. Crowther was at Holmes Marchant for 10 years, and became a Director of a Subsidiary, Holmes Marchant Communications Limited, from 1995-2000.

In 2000 he left Holmes Marchant, with another H-M director, Fiona Shepherd, and they set up April-Six limited. April Six, a tech marketing company, was sold in 2007 to the Mission Marketing group. By the time it was sold it had 54 staff and Mission paid £9.55M for April Six, with another £9.45M if they performed as well as expected. Given that the crash happened before the second payment I don’t know whether it was paid, but Crowther and Shepherd would have done very well from the first payment, part of which was in H-M shares.

April Six provided consultancy marketing and comms services, to the software, reseller and telecomms industry. No, I don’t know what it means either.

Here’s the information release about the acquisition. Gives a little more detail on what April Six were doing. And from this it looks like the company was owned 50/50 by Crowther and Shepherd.

Also, somewhat bizarrely, he was, for 9 months in 2001, Marketing Director of the Shark Trust, a conservation charity set up to conserve sharks rays and other elasmobranchs in the UK. But he appears to have been a trustee/director, rather than an employee director. Sadly Charities Commission online records don’t go back to 2001 for the Shark Trust which is a pity. If anyone can enlighten me about this episode in the Crowther story, I would appreciate it.

So it seems that Crowther made a small fortune providing marketing services to big players in the software and internet industries during the heady days after the dot com crash and before the credit crunch crash. And he has used his media/marketing nous to great effect, both as a campaigner against wind farms, as well as the brains behind the UKIP project.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

You forgot to show us the Astroturf Beefy

I don’t know whether UKIP has successfully put some psychotropic chemical in the water supply, but the bizarre stories seem to just keep on coming at the moment.

The latest is the launch of a “network” – how do you launch a network? called You Forgot the Birds, fronted by Sir Ian Beefy Botham, legendary cricketer and boyhood hero of mine and many others of my age. YFTB claims to be concerned that the RSPB is wasting its members money and not looking after birds properly. YFTB are so upset they have made an official complaint to the Charities Commission that RSPB are being naughty and not behaving proper charitably.

Who are YFTB? Botham’s photo is plastered all over their substantial publicity they have received in the last few days since their launch. Botham s a keen shooter and owns a shoot near his home in Yorkshire, so it would be reasonable to assume that the RSPB’s stance on shooting might have generated this ire. Although as Mark Avery has pointed out, their public stance is very mild indeed, as it usually is on matters where someone might get upset.

I was curious as to who might be behind this “Network”. I use quote marks because as far as I can make out, it YFTB is an astroturf outfit. It purports to be a grassroots campaign of ordinary people, who are keen on monitoring the activities of the RSPB, and it would also seem they have their sights set on the Wildlife Trusts too. Although there are two other “figure-heads”, both from the shooting fraternity, they are just photos with attached quotes as far as I can see.

The real work is done by Campaigns Director Ian Gregory. Gregory has been in the media and lobbying business for years and now works for Centaurus Communications. Gregory did PPE at Oxford (so is very well connected) and worked for Maggie Thatcher before moving to the Beeb as a producer, then onto global corporate support outfit Accenture. Centaurus Communications are in the business of corporate lobbying and reputation management. They are managing the reputation of companies that produce e-cigarettes for example. They also did a promotional job for the new authoritarian President of Hungary Viktor Orban, whose views have shocked many in Europe; and who has taken the Hungarian Government so far to the right that the main opposition party is Jobbik, who are neo-nazis.

I also recommend you look at CC’s latest “insight” into the murky world of corporate lobbying. They deride ideology, asking “how long would a climate change refusenik last at the BBC?” Now this could be read both ways, but I think the implication is that, rather than correctly casting climate change denial as an ideology, belief in human-induced climate change is part of an ideology, and the refusenik is the victim of ideology. I wonder whether CC also include the Global Warming Policy Foundation amongst their clients.

Does it matter that someone is agitating against the RSPB? Are there real issues that YFTB have raised? Hen of Save our Woods has expressed sympathy with the issues raised by YFTB. In a sense, it is right and proper that the RSPB should answer the accusation, after all, as a charity RSPB benefit from tax breaks and the opportunity to receive funding from Grant Making Trusts, benefits that individuals of corporate entities do not have. And the Charity Commission’s job is to make sure that Charities abide by the rules. They have up until recently done a pretty poor job as a regulator but profess to becoming more enthusiastic about this role from now on. Indeed they recently stepped in to quietly nudge The Global Warming Policy Foundation about their evidently uncharitable political lobbying. But rather than change their ways, Nigel Lawson and his wealthy backers, merely decided to split GWPF in two, and carry on with the cynical political-corporate work, outside the charitable sector. Of course, the Charity Commission has singly failed to address the uncharitable political activities of the right wing think tanks such as the Institute for Economic Affairs and Centre for Policy Studies; perhaps someone should ask the Commission to investigate. Oh, hold on, they have. Did anything come of it? No.

The current Government, goaded by right wing thinktanks like the IEA, are keen to clamp down on political activity by charities, by muzzling them through the lobbying act. But rather than go after the corporate mouthpieces (IEA are funded by the tobacco and fossil fuel industries) who corrupt democratic processes, instead they are gunning for Oxfam and the RSPB.

Funny old world eh?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Forget Gross Domestic Product, we need to measure Gross Natural Product






Trading Floor at The New York Stock Exchange 1963


We have now had four and a half years of austerity, of seeing our public services, and more widely, the public realm in Britain being cut to shreds by the Tories and the Libdems. This has been, allegedly, in the name of reducing the deficit, the difference between the income the Government receives through taxation, and the spending of Government on, well in theory, things that benefit society.

The latest figures are not good. In September 2014 the Government borrowed an extra £11.8 billion. That takes Government borrowing since April to £58 billion, or nearly 10% more than was borrowed by this time last financial year. All this extra borrowing adds to the national debt. Which currently stands at £1.45 Trillion, which is £100 billion higher than it was at this time last year.

Public Sector net debt has actually increased by nearly 50% during the Coalition’s terms, when they were doing everything to “drive down the deficit”

These figures are of course meaningless.

If you go into debt and cannot pay it off, you might lose your house. If you didn’t have any assets you could go voluntarily bankrupt and your debts would be wiped out. It would mean you would probably not get a mortgage again, but at least you would have no debt to repay for the rest of your life.  That is a real world problem.

But Banks who gambled recklessly with billions of pounds of other people’s money during the crazy times before the great depression of the “Credit Crunch”, found themselves in extraordinarily huge debt, debt far greater than they could ever pay off. The Government (Labour) concluded that the risk of allowing a bank to fail was too horrible to contemplate  – remember Northern Rock under Viscount Matt Ridley’s chairmanship? So the banks agreed to simply have that debt wiped away by the Government. The Government “spent” £37 billion bailing out banks like Lloyds, by “buying” a stake in that bank. What that actually means is that the Government, on behalf of all of us, gave the Banks shed loads of cash, so they could carry on doing what they were doing before.

Where would all this extra money for the banks come from? As the Government debt increased, “quantitative easing” was introduced. This is just fancy language for printing more money. Like anything really, the more of something that’s available to buy, the cheaper it becomes. Its the same with money. The more pounds there are floating around to buy things, the less each pound is worth. That £1.45 Trillion debt is not worth as much (ie is not at big) as it was before QE started. That may well explain why people feel much poorer that the money in their paypacket would suggest, and why this so called economic recovery feels like something very different.

An astonishing £375 billion has been magically “created” by QE. Has anyone felt any richer as a result? Well yes, actually. The super rich have become a great deal richer during this time of austerity.

The disparity between the richest and poorest has grown under this Government to its largest since the Second World War.

The top 10% in the UK own nearly half all of its private wealth,

The top 1% own as much as the poorest 55% and are getting wealthier at an increasing rate.

Politicians and business leaders tell us we are in a world race to the top of economic growth. All that matters if economic growth, watch those GDP indicators, are they green or red, green or red?

GDP is Gross Domestic Product. This is an indicator, a proxy, supposedly of the health of the economy. GDP does not actually exist, it is a purely artificial construct, like money. GDP is a simplified measure of something which is supposed to be helpful to society as a whole. The problem is that it is nothing of the sort. GDP measures domestic output, so doesn’t take into account who is buying the products produced – whether they are all exported, for example. GDP is a hopeless measure of financial output  – and the byzantine nature of the way GDP is measured is understood by only a few economists – who may have got it wrong. It’s not based on physics like the basis of human-induced climate change is, for example.

If I suggested that there was no scientific basis for GDP, I’d be on much firmer ground than Climate Change denialists.

What’s also interesting is that the language of biology has been appropriated by the economists. Real growth is found in nature, and within us. We grow as we develop, our bodies grow, our minds grow (hopefully). And our human culture grows, as we pass information, knowledge and wisdom down the generations. Nature grows in many senses, durnally, seasonally, but also through evolution. But nature’s growth is cyclical, as things grow, so they must decay.

Where is the analogy in our modern economy?

We are being subtly driven to believe that real growth, the growth of nature, and the growth within ourselves and within society/culture, is less important than the illusory growth of economies and financial capital.

We need to start subverting this obsession with teh language of Neoliberal Economics; and start talking about the Natural Debt and Natural Deficit. When are we going to pay off the Natural Debt?

Modern farming and forestry have run up a massive natural debt – this comprises the loss of wildlife, healthy carbon-rich soil, clean water, clean air, but also all the wonderful things that nature provides people with, from inspiration to well-being, joy to a chance for reflection.

 Yes many do not even realise this debt exists, and it continues to increase. When a farmer converts a piece of grassland into a maize field (yes that’s happening a great deal down here in the South West.), that’s effectively a transaction between the economy (GDP goes up) and nature (the natural debt increases). The farmer gets richer, society and nature get poorer.  But no-one is measuring this change.

I suggest we need a new measure Gross Natural Product. If the Government used this as an indicator of the health of society, alongside (or instead of) GDP, we would have a much clearer idea of what is happening in the world. Countries like ourselves who hacve already utterly transformed out environments would naturally have a massive long term natural debt and arguably our annual natural deficits would be relatively small compared to, say, Brazil which still has a great deal of nature that hasnt been transformed. But their annual natural deficit will be increasing more quickly, as they convert forest to grow soya beans to export to us to feed our animals. These relationships would become much clearer if the natural debt/deficit approach was adopted. Under our current system, Brazil converting rainforest to soya or beef adds to their GDP – and is seen as a good thing!

This is one of the many problems with Biodiversity Offsetting. The BO approach only accounts for the transactions happening at the time – biodiversity lost on one site, generates credits which in theory mean biodiversity gain occurs at another site.

Of course, if one replaces an ancient woodland, with a thousand new trees, that is the equivalent of ecological quantitative easing, or printing money.

 Photo By Thomas J. O’Halloran, photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Posted in economics, neoliberalism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

UKIP’s Roger Helmer ventures into supporting renewable energy, and gets it all wrong.





More UKIP bonkersness.

Roger Helmer has now decided he supports renewable energy, but only if it is bioethanol distilled from wheat.

This appears to be because he doesn’t want a bioethanol distillery built in Stocton (sic) on Tees to lie dormant.

Helmer displays his usual casual disregard for facts by claiming that bioethanol can be produced at the same cost as fossil-fuel derived petrol, because it has no subsidy. Wrong on both counts.

British Farmers grow winter wheat across 2 million hectares of farmland to feed to beef cattle. You may think cows eat grass – think again. They are fed wheat to make them grow quicker. Feeding wheat to cows is good for farmers profits but otherwise is not such a great idea. Intensive wheat production is also a high impact land management practice which affects the environment, landscape and society. To suggest it has no cost is beyond naive.

Anyway some of the energy in that wheat is converted into vehicle fuel: bioethanol is produced by distilling the alcohol from fermented wheat. That wheat is grown in Britain by British farmers, receiving £200 per hectare per annum (plus bonuses) just for the privilege of owning land. This is the madness of the Common Agricultural Policy. And the idea that this is a co-product which would have been thrown away had it not been made into ethanol is of course nonsense. As I said, the energy has been removed from the crop to make ethanol. That energy would have ended up in the cow or been returned to the soil.

So Helmer is of course wrong to suggest that the bioethanol has no subsidy. I’m surprised that his Climate Adviser Ben Pile hasn’t spotted this basic gaff. I have written about Pile before.

Secondly Helmer is wrong to suggest that the Fossil Fuel industry doesn’t get a subsidy. In fact the Fossil Fuel Industry is one of the most heavily subsidised industries on the planet. According to the International Energy Association, hardly a radical outfit, Fossil Fuel Subsidies globally were $544 billion in 2012. Renewable Energy subsidies were just $100 billion.

OK so those are both wrong, what about the plant – who paid for that? As always it’s not as easy as you might think to follow the money. Helmer quotes a £750M investment in the plant. But Ensus, who run the plant only mention £240M and say that the plant was funded by “both private investments and grants from the government.” Grants is another word for subsidies. If anyone can tell me how much Ensus (or indeed the other bioeth plants) received in government grants I would be grateful.

Finally scientists have looked at whether bioethanol plants in the UK are economic or not. They concluded that, at an oil price of $100 a barrel, they aren’t economic.

Based on this effort, I suggest UKIP sticks to its current position on renewables; that they are all bad. At least that keeps it simple (and also wrong.)


Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-4.0


Posted in biofuels, renewable energy, UKIP | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Lib Dems continue to haemhorrhage voters to left and right

More on that Lib Dem – UKIP connection.

The most recent YouGov poll shows the libdems on 8%, with UKIP on 18% and the Greens on 7%.

It’s worth noting that of those who voted LD in 2010, only 32% intend to vote for them in 2015. This compares with 71% continuing to vote Tory, and 78% continuing to vote Labour. I suppose this shows that the Lib Dem voter is more of a floating and tactical voter, so no great surprise there.

Where are the other 68% of the previous LD vote going?

26% are going to Labour and 12% to the Tories. This leaves a whopping 30% voting for “none of the above”, which is as many as are going to vote LD.

These voters are heading left and right – 14% to the Greens and 12% to UKIP, with the rest to the Celtic Nationalists.

UKIP are picking up most votes from disgruntled Tories (21% of those who voted Tory in 2010 are heading right) with only 9% from Labour.

The Greens are now up to 11% for young voters in both the 18-24 and 25-39 age brackets, while UKIP have 23% of the 60+ voters.

It’s also worth considering that 20% of those asked, either would not vote or haven’t decided yet. This means only 57% of voters are saying they will support the 3 traditional parties in the election, which is only a little over 6 months away.

I don’t remember a time when there was this much disillusion with mainstream politics in Britain, but then I don’t remember the 30s, or the preceding decades when there was so much more interest and activity in politics.

Posted in General Election 2015 | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The Changing Politics of British Landscapes







It’s fair to say that UKIP’s environmental policies, especially those involving any deep thought or reflection, are hard to find anything other than a little bit silly. And this sense isn’t helped by the antics of their environmental spokesman Dr Earth aka Andrew Charalambous. At least he has now apparently withdrawn the claim that he is a professor of environmental science. I guess this blog does have some influence after all!

One of the more bizarre claims from UKIP is that wind farms are actually going to lead to the total loss of biodiversity and eventually the whole plant will be ripped to shreds by their evil blades. This is what they say:

Apart from devastating the view of serenity and breathtaking scenery of our countryside the rotating blades kill and maim countless of innocent birds even from protected species. Moreover, wind farms emit grotesquely disturbing noise pollution which petrifies so many small animals causing them to abandon their historical habitat. In addition, the various oils and greases used by the turbines contribute to the imbalance of our ecosystems.

Now aside from the fact that this appears to have been translated by google translator, the idea that the turbine oils and greases are a significant threat to our ecosystems, compared to say, fracking, or indeed pretty anything else, what it does indicate is that UKIP do really care about Landscapes. Time and again they talk about our precious countryside, breathtaking scenery, marvellous views and so on. Charalambous again:

The environment is and should be sacred. That is why we need to protect our countryside, the most breathtaking on mother Earth not only from development but wind farms too.

This can also be seen in UKIP’s preference for brownfield development, and protection of the green belt at all costs. I am not convinced all within UKIP understand the difference between greenfield and greenbelt, at least not at the lofty level of UK spokesman. But there are plenty within UKIP who do understand this difference and some are in influential places.

Stephen Crowther is chairman of UKIP. Some say he is the real power behind the Farage puppet with his arm stuck up it pulling the strings. I think I did hear Farage say “gottle of geer gottle of geer” on the BBC one day last week.  Not much is known about his past other than he is from North Devon, went into PR and journalism and returned to Devon. Interestingly he was an active Lib Dem before going UKIP and was also active in the North Devon CPRE group, where he came to prominence helping to run an anti wind farm campaign. He rose out of nowhere to become UKIP chair. As chair of UKIP he has been apparently ruthless in his actions,. This from Tom Pride

According to UKIP insiders, the real power behind UKIP is not Farage, but party chairman Steve Crowther.

Crowther’s a bit of a mystery. He appeared out of the blue in UKIP circles only around 5 years ago and rapidly rose to take a top position in UKIP.

What we do know is that he is a former journalist, political spin doctor, PR expert, and marketing executive – who has been described by UKIP insiders as a “svengali-like” figure and a “man of mystery”.

As a former journalist and PR executive, Crowther is unsurprisingly the mouthpiece for UKIP. He sends regular emails to UKIP representatives and candidates instructing them in great detail what they can and cannot say in public and to the press.

And anyone who doesn’t toe Crowther’s line is summarily disciplined or even sacked.

Crowther decides who becomes a candidate, who is allowed to become a member and who remains a member of the party – a power he is not afraid to ruthlessly wield.

Oh and before he took over UKIP, Crowther used to be an activist in the Liberal Democrats.

I wonder if Douglas Carswell knows he’s now become the underling of a ruthless and autocratic former Lib Dem?

Crowther is standing as the UKIP candidate against the Lib Dem incumbent for North Devon in the General Election. He could win.

It just happens that CPRE are running a campaign called “waste of  space” asking members of the public to tell them about unused brownfield sites where houses can be built. And this is just what UKIP are also calling for, through a UK Brownfield Agency. Brownfield is shorthand for previously developed land, which can include land that was previously used for industry. Of course it depends how far you go back, but some of the “pristine landscapes” beloved of CPRE and UKIPPERS are of course, post industrial landscapes. The Dartmoor upland landscape has been fundamentally shaped by the milliennia old Tin Industry for example.

Another landscape where UKIP are already having a great influence is the Peak District. The Chair of the Peak District National Park Authority is a key role, highly influential and especially at this time as they are recruiting their new Chief Executive. Chair of the PDNPA is Lesley Roberts, who has been on the NPA for a number of years. I believe she first joined as a Lib Dem district councillor (most NPA members are drawn from the local councils). Although her seat on the NPA is now via her Parish Council, she recently stood as a UKIP candidate in a local council election. the PDNPA is, to my knowledge, the first major statutory body chaired by a UKIP person.

So here we have another ex Lib Dem activist, moving to UKIP, who is very concerned and clearly very well versed in landscape protection.

Bill Cash was one of those Eurosceptic MPs who made life hell for that nice Mr Major during the early 90s. Now his son, William Cash, has become UKIP’s heritage spokesman. Cash Minor lives in the family pile in Shropshire. Cash has done very well running a magazine for the uber wealthy called Spear’s. I guess now he wants to get into politics. Cash’s all for protecting our precious heritage, countryside the green belt and so on. Or he is self interested in promoting the heritage industry, as would appear to be the case from his website , where you can “buy in” to the aristocratic lifestyle, if you’re wealthy enough. Only for the weekend mind.

Finally, one of the key funders of UKIP is a swiss banker ( I kid you not) called Henry Angest. Again, not much is known about him, but he owns a Bank, which owns a business which makes a lot of money out of lending unsecured loans to people in financial trouble. It’s not Wonga. It’s called Everyday Loans. He also has influence, and recently was embroiled in a bit of a story about Esther McVey accepting a donation from him, when she was Minister for cutting benefits. Just the sort of people who might have to go to nice Mr Angest for a loan, at 80% interest.

Mr Angest is also interested in the landscape, especially the Scottish landscape, of which I understand he owns quite a large chunk. But I suspect he is more interested in less regulation and lower taxes for businesses. Andy Wightman’s piece on Angest is well worth reading in full, here. Angest has given over £7M to the Tory party before starting to fund UKIP.

What can we conclude from all this anecdote, heresay, and hard evidence?

UKIP are most certainly interested in landscape and protecting it from allcomers – and I expect there will be quite a few CPRE members around the country who will be voting UKIP next May. While many people will be thinking UKIP speaks for them, in truth, far from being the People’s Army, UKIP are a clique of the mega wealthy, the landed gentry, and political opportunists who have jumped ship from the Lib Dems and Tories.

Do we really want them to impose on us what landscapes, or any other “British” values, that they cherish?

Remember, this has all happened before: read Simon Sharma’s Landscape and Memory ,to understand how a sense of identity, linked to values of landscape, can be corrupted.



Windfarm photo by Jon Blathwayt (Winterton Wind Turbines) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Posted in brownfield, landscape, the far right, UKIP, wind farms | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Owen Paterson calls for the use of nuclear submarines to power the UK






Owen Paterson wants the UK to run on electricity from Nuclear Submarines

Owen Paterson is a bit of a submarine himself these days. He goes under, for weeks at a time, then pops up, fires off a few choice quotes (mostly climate change denial, Green Blob paranoia or anti-Europe) and disappears again.

He’s just surfaced and fired a torpedo.

No surprises that the Telegraph gets the juicy titbits from Owen Paterson’s forthcoming speech to the Global Warming Policy Lobbying Outfit, or whatever they have decided to call themselves now they have split the “charitable” activities out from the all-out Fossil fuel funded lobbying that Lord Lawson and his cronies have been up to for the past 7 years. Except perhaps the Mail would have been a more attractive prospect to place the story, given its much larger readership. Never mind.

No surprises that Paterson is using the speech to call for the Climate Change Act to be suspended or scrapped, if everyone else doesn’t also do what the UK has committed to doing through the Act, reducing our Carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

No surprises that Paterson is scaremongering like billyo about it, warning the lights will be going out if we don’t abandon our commitments to act on climate change. And no surprises that he is advocating a new Dash for Gas – Shale Gas.

These are givens, all the things we come to expect from OPatz. The man who refused to take a brief from his chief scientist, instead preferring cosy fireside (coal fire I imagine) chats with his Brother in Law the Irrational Optimist Viscount Matt Ridley.

But there are a few surprises in the leaked items from his speech to the denialist faithful. Paterson is going, apparently, to advocate using small nuclear power plants, akin to the ones used to power nuclear submarines, dotted about all over the country. Where would Paterson put all these reactors? Since so many high security military bases where the reactors could have been stored safely, have been sold off, I’m not sure having loads of small nuclear power stations dotted about the country is such a good idea; terrorists may feel they are being encouraged to take advantage.

If I have read the article correctly, these nuclear reactors, or the heat from them, will be used to heat Combined Heat and Power systems…but heat can only travel short distances economically. So I guess Paterson is suggesting all these small nuclear reactors are placed within our large towns and cities. I’m not sure this has been entirely thought through.

Paterson then drops a real bombshell. We will have to get used to “demand management” where clever switches will turn off our freezers and other electrical stuff for a couple of hours a day. Demand management, from the arch neoliberal free marketeer? Really?

I am now wondering if someone has been masquerading as Paterson in some sort of satire. Perhaps it’s a friend of Banksy’s. Perhaps the whole thing is some sort of Banksy-esque performance art satire. We can but hope.

Of course we are only hearing the parts of the speech that Paterson and his denialist chums want us to hear at the moment. I expect when the speech has been made, and Nigel Farage et al are applauding him and beckoning him over into the UKIP camp, we will hear the parts of the speech that are more typical climate denial grandstanding we have come to expect from Paterson. We will hear that the fabled global warming pause is old enough to vote, etc etc.

With the Tory Party fraying at the seams in the run up to the election, having Paterson shooting from the lip stage right might annoy Cameron et al just enough for them to sack him, or start briefing against him.

There’s still time to do a Reckless Owen!


Photo from Wikimedia Commons (U.S. photo VIRIN: DN-SN-86-06573)

Posted in climate change, Denialists, Global Warming Policy Foundation, Matt Ridley, neoliberalism, Owen Paterson | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Thought Spending Cuts were to reduce Public Debt? Think again

Last week David Cameron told the Tory Conference that under the Coalition the country was “paying down its debt.” This, after all, we are told is the reason why we have had to endure:

The worst cuts in public services in many decades – £800M off the Defra budget between 2010 and 2016


Privatisations such as The Royal Mail, large parts of the NHS, and selling off publicly owned land for private profit

But hold on – what’s this?

debt letter






The Public Sector Net Debt increased by nearly 50% during this Parliament!

So if all these cuts and privatisations are not about reducing the public debt, then what are they about?

George Osborne made it very clear last week at a Question and Answer session at the Institute of Directors, when he made a brazen attack on Charities who he cast as “anti-business”and urged business leaders to  help him “win this argument for an enterprising, business, low-tax economy that delivers prosperity for the people and generations to come.

Osborne, the son of a Baronet and personally worth well over £4 Million , is not in the slightest bit interest in delivering prosperity for “the people”, unless they are his “people”. The disparity between the richest and poorest has grown under this Government to its largest since the Second World War. The top 10% in the UK own nearly half all of its private wealth, while the top 1% own as much as the poorest 55% and are getting wealthier at an increasing rate.

Is there any real surprise then, that with politicians like this, voters are voting against politics by supporting populists like UKIP.

Thanks To @LabourEoin for publishing this on twitter.


Posted in David Cameron, public debt, spending cuts, Tory Party, UKIP | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Will “The Usual Suspects” fund Owen Paterson’s new Dummy Tank UK/2020?





a dummy tank

Two and a half years ago I wrote about the Art of Deception, and Operation Fortitude, where inflatable tanks were used to fool the Germans into thinking that D-Day would be an invasion of the Pas de Calais, not Normandy. It is still one of the greatest acts of deception in Military history.

I suggested in that article that some Thinktanks might be as deceiving as the inflatable tank in the photo, because it is impossible to tell who funds them, and therefore who they represent. Recently more previously secret funders of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, have been revealed. This outfit set up specifically to challenge the science behind human-induced climate change, it turns out, is funded by Neil Record and Lord Nigel Vinson (who sounds strangely like Lord Nigel Lawson). These two characters are also funders and Trustees of the neoliberal thinktank the Institute for Economic Affairs, the IEA. The IEA represent Tobacco Industry interests and also campaigns against climate change action, so it’s not surprise that IEA trustees should be helping, in the deep background, support GWPF.  Another major donor to GWPF is billionaire hedge fund owner Michael Hintze, who is a massive Tory party donor – oh and a major donor to the IEA.

Now who do you think would set up a new neoliberal thinktank, to promote Britain leaving the EU, freeing itself from targets for action on climate change? Who would set up “a new research unit to develop a radical conservative vision for a prosperous, sovereign and socially just United Kingdom in 2020.”

Yes! Back from the wilderness! Turning the spotlight on the Tory Backwoods – it’s Opatz, the return!

Owen Paterson is setting up a new Dummy tank, UK/2020, to promote exactly the same things as the IEA, The Taxpayers Alliance, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. Paterson recently said action on climate change “may actually be causing” more damage than climate change – yes he actually said that. It’s straight of the GWPF quote book.

Although he continues to deny any plans to defect to UKIP, he sees them as “natural allies”.

Indeed. UKIP’s combination of climate change denial, deregulation, support for big agriculture, hatred of windfarms and paranoia about the contamination of their “precious bodily fluids” would chime very well with Paterson’s view of the world.

Expect UK/2020 to advocate the NFU position, climate change denial, anti-environmentalism, dredging, deregulation, very small government, fracking, GMOs, mega industrial agriculture, wildlife killing (for fun or profit, or even better – both), biodiversity offsetting, and all the other things Paterson worked to promote during his time as Secretary of State against the Environment. As Arch Grand Masters of the Neoconoids, Paterson will probably be more politically influential heading up this dummy tank, no doubt branded as representing “the ordinary person in the street”, as he was at Defra.

Paterson is reported to have already raised several hundred thousand pounds of funding. From where, we do not know. But I can think of a few names who may well be happy to put a hundred k into a new pot to advocate against action on climate change. Record, Hintze, Vinson….

Posted in anti-environmental rhetoric, Astroturfing, corporate lobbying, deregulation, Neoconoids, neoliberalism, Owen Paterson, Think Tanks, UKIP | Tagged , , | Leave a comment