Sunday, 26 September 2010

What has Ed Miliband ever done for Anglesey?

Ed and Albert pictured struggling in Energy Policy class
So Gordon Brown-loyalist Ed Miliband -- and the man backed by Anglesey MP Albert Owen (another Brown loyalist) -- has become Leader of the Labour Party. As the media begins asking what Ed's leadership could mean for the Labour Party and for the country at large, Its a good time for us to ask ourselves this question: what has Ed Miliband ever done for Ynys Môn?

The answer, despite having only been in Parliament for five years, is quite a lot -- but little of it positive.

Ed's only position of note within government during his short career was as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, a position he was appointed to in October 2008. Just two weeks into that role he suddenly announced that the Government's then target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 60 percent by 2050 was not ambitious enough and promptly upped it to 80 percent -- one of the highest such targets in the world. At the time this move was welcomed by climate scientists and various green pressure groups, and, who knows, over time it may be be proven to have been the correct decision -- but the fact is that it also had important knock-on effects for British industry which were not so widely trumpeted by the Labour Party. Emissions targets such as this, and the carbon-trading scheme implemented by the EU to help implement them, have effectively made it all but impossible for Europe-based primary metallurgical industries -- such as Anglesey Aluminium -- to remain competitive with similar companies operating in Russia, China, or India. A target of 80 percent reductions in emissions indicated that energy prices would almost certainly rise in the future -- not good news for an energy-hungry company such as Anglesey Aluminium which daily consumed 20 percent of the entire electricity supply in Wales. Ed Miliband had effectively put AAM on notice, and when just three months later the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency informed AAM that the cheap electricity deal on which it depended with the now publicly-owned Wylfa power station would have to be scrapped because of EU legislation preventing government subsidising private companies, there could be no other outcome but the closure of Anglesey Aluminium. Unsurprisingly Anglesey Aluminium was not the only such primary metallurgical company to be forced to close at the same time: the Corus Steelworks in Redcar also folded for almost exactly the same reasons.

One thing however we can half-thank Ed Miliband for is that in setting such an extraordinarily high emissions-cut target, he finally woke himself -- and the Labour party -- to the energy black hole the UK was sleepwalking towards. The fact is most nuclear plants and half of the UK's conventional coal plants are scheduled for closure over the next decade and the Labour Party, whilst in government, had completely taken their eye off the problem -- leading to even Ed Miliband's own department predicting possible energy blackouts by 2015. From this point of view it is illuminating to note that when Ed Miliband was appointed two years ago as the Secretary for State for Energy and Climate Change -- this was the first time in 13 years of Labour rule that there had actually been a full Minister in charge of energy policy. Before then the energy portfolio had been just one minor part of the sprawling Department for Trade and Industry's remit. Furthermore the average tenure of DTI Secretaries of State was just a year and a half meaning that there was little continuity or foresightedness at the top of the department.

No wonder therefore we are currently in the position we are now in Anglesey: hoping against hope for a massive £7 billion investment to build Wylfa B immediately following the largest recession since the 1930s, with a UK government facing the highest ever peacetime levels of public debt, and seemingly entirely at the mercy of internal German politics (see here). Had Labour taken action much earlier during the boom years Wylfa B could have already been in place and the Island's largest private-sector employer, Anglesey Aluminium, may well still have been operating. So, thanks for nothing, Ed.

UPDATE: Just in case you were wondering, this is how Labour Party members in Ynys Môn voted in the leadership contest:

click to enlarge

Good to see such overwhelming support for Ed Miliband despite his sterling work in contributing to making Anglesey's largest private-sector employer unviable.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Druid, but shouldn't you have preceded that one-eyed blog with "And now a party political broadcast by the Conservative Party"

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Anon 14:44 - you are free to point our any inaccuracies in my post if you feel it is biased.

Anonymous said...

It is far too simplistic an argument to claim it is purely the emissions targets that make power hungry plants less viable in this country than say India or China as there are a range of reasons, from cheap man-power to cheap power.
I have not seen any significant Coalition policy changes on this subject that will change that situation.
Also you forget to mention it was Labour that did offer a £48m sweetener to AAM to remain, which was turned down. It was also Ed Miliband who came here to back Energy Island, something the Coalition are yet to get behind.
I hate acting as a New Labour cheerleader because a lot of what they did in power was ill-judged and they threw away what could have been a truly positive and progressive time in office.
But I often feel your excellent and highly informed blogs fall clearly on the blue side of the political rainbow.

Anonymous said...

"I have not seen any significant Coalition policy changes on this subject that will change that situation. "

Didn't they introduce anything in their first hour after taking over.? Useless bastards. I'm not voting them again.

"Also you forget to mention it was Labour that did offer a £48m sweetener"

Ah yes, offering bribes and Labour seem to be so natural in a sentence. Flows from the lips really.

"It was also Ed Miliband who came here to back Energy Island, something the Coalition are yet to get behind."

See point one

"
I hate acting as a New Labour cheerleader "

but nontheless will carry on with a feeble throwaway at how they've not been that good but everyone should support them anyway.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Anon 15:56 - fair points, here are my replies:

"It is far too simplistic an argument to claim it is purely the emissions targets that make power hungry plants less viable in this country than say India or China as there are a range of reasons, from cheap man-power to cheap power."

As you would imagine for any plant using daily 20% of the total electricity in Wales, the energy bill is the single largest cost. I have already written this week how analysts expect a carbon floor price to be set at around €50 / tonne compared to the current approx €13 / tonne to make cleaner energy more competitive with cheaper but dirtier fuels. Imagine what effect that would have on energy prices for a company like AAM.

"Also you forget to mention it was Labour that did offer a £48m sweetener to AAM to remain, which was turned down."

A one-off subsidy would not change the long-term profitability prospects of AAM considering it was struggling with the loss of its cheap energy deal with Wylfa and huge energy inflation in the future. The pre-election timing and sheer size of the amount offered also points to considerable panic within Labour ranks at the fallout they were anticipating from AAM closing. The £48m does however give Albert Owen a useful fig leaf to use when defending Labour's record with relation to AAM closing though (see: http://druidsrevenge.blogspot.com/2010/09/albert-owen-distorts-reality-over.html )

"It was also Ed Miliband who came here to back Energy Island, something the Coalition are yet to get behind."

Yes, again just before the general election I believe...

Jarlath said...

Maybe the Druid is correct, maybe the additional costs due the UK commitment to tackle Global Warming, and the lack of a deal over power supply was two of the reasons behind the closure of the smelting plant.

However, I have a feeling that it had more to do with shareholders of the global giant RTZ Alcan (the world’s 3rd biggest mine owners). Don’t forget they are building a massive aluminium smelter in Malaysia, and if they can ironically sort the power supply out, one in South Africa also.

Russia is the largest producer of Aluminium, whereas as mentioned before on this blog, the UK in 2006 only produced 1.09% of the Worlds output. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_aluminium_production

RTZ Alco have in Mongolia potentially one of the largest copper mines in the world with potentially yields worth £190 billion (Sunday Times –Giant firms protest over migrant cap- report by Maurice Chittenden)

In reality, it seems to me, it was down to cost of aluminium, production levels, and the business sense of concentrating on the operations delivering maximum return for shareholders.

Sadly, I doubt any person or any government could have saved the smelter from closure.

Of course, today and in the near future the relevant question is “What are the Coalition Government doing for Anglesey”, or is it the case that as some people ask, “as for anyone else beyond middle England do you think they really care?”. I of course could not possibly comment, but no doubt, we shall find out soon.

I think the Druid's right on the delay in building new nuclear power stations though.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response,

to respond to anon 17.28
"I hate acting as a New Labour cheerleader
but nontheless will carry on with a feeble throwaway at how they've not been that good but everyone should support them anyway"

I didn't say everyone should support them anyway and didn't vote to them myself at the last election

Anonymous said...

Great news folks, Ed just won so the Tories are back in next time....!!

Eat your heart out Planning Portfolio guy

The Great Councillini said...

What a silly country we are. The ConDems are about to bring the country to its kness with the extent and rapidity of economic cuts, and we all sit here, thinking it'll be fine, they need to do it (until 'we' start losing our jobs, of course).

When a man who favours more equality in society gets elected, we shout 'boo, hiss, he's a red commie', and he feels he has to jiggle along to the middle ground instantly.

Conclusion: the population doesn't want a just society. I would contend people simply don't think or know anything beyond the 'free market' and 'socialist' labels and their preconceptions any more.

I guess, by today's standards, that the movement for a national health service and the campaign for women's voting rights would be seen as far-left extremists.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

TGC - with the very greatest of respect, it could be that people are naturally wary of someone who has had no life experience other than in politics (first as an advisor to Harriet Harman and then to Gordon Brown) who says that there is no need for us to make difficult choices and that we can continue to fuel our current lifestyles on the back of money borrowed from people less fortunate than ourselves in China, which will be paid back by our children and children's children.

In my opinion there are many different definitions of a 'just society' - including one which creates an equality of opportunity for all rather than one that tries to force an equality of outcome for all.

The Great Councillini said...

I agree, Druid.

I'm not sure that having no life experience outside politics necessarily makes Ed Milliband - or David Cameron - any less able to lead. Many, if not most of Britain's leaders have similarly been limited in 'life', and one could argue that many have been highly successful, nevertheless.

I also don't think the evidence shows that Ed Milliband is saying we do not need to make any cuts - it seems he has gone out of his way to say that cuts are necessary, but perhaps not in the way and with the speed the ConDems are going about it. Ed may be wrong, but he is certainly amongst a group of enlightened people who share the view that deep, speedy cuts may have undesirable consequences for the economy.

As for ripping the shirts off those less fortunate that us, then I think this is a natural if not inevitable consequence of the free market system. The last I heard, the ConDems were enthusiastically continuing to support the capitalist machine.

If we want a just society, we can start by not demanding a t-shirt in Asda for £2, with tuppence-h'penny going those making them. Who'll be first to pay a fair price for the t-shirt? Anyone? Didn't think so...

The Red Flag said...

I read a story about Labour and how it has changed. 50 years ago a Labour MP usually had a background of job, trades union, politics and would proudly announce 'I got here by my efforts and hard work'.

Now a Labour MP is university, political researcher, and proudly states 'I got here by my parents efforts and hard work'

The Great Councillini said...

Red Flag makes an important point, relevant to most of our lives: nothing remains static. Change does not mean a change for the worse simply because it is change.

I'm personally closer to joining Labour than ever before thanks to Ed's win. It doesn't mean I'll embrace everything he and the party represents. But Labour will, hopefully, move back to representing the working class - which means anyone who depends on their labour to make a living, not just 'people living in council houses with low-level jobs' as has become the norm to think these days. You see? Even the definition of social class has changed in people's minds, if not in reality.

Kinnock's Crew said...

If you don't like the unions having a say, stop accepting their money, Labour Party! See how long your finances and your party will last then...

The Red Flag said...

Quite right Kinnock's Crew. The Labour Party is the political wing of the Trades Union movement and if the party has problems with that then it shouldn't take their money.

Prometheuswrites said...

"In my opinion there are many different definitions of a 'just society' - including one which creates an equality of opportunity for all rather than one that tries to force an equality of outcome for all".

I don't think this issue is as clear cut as that.
There was a BBC Radio 4 programme today, about the degree of representation in society and parliament of Oxbridge graduates.

The programme examined the opportunity/equitability of access to higher education across society.

Access to those institutions whose graduates occupy the 'top jobs' in society is now very much the domain of those privileged by wealth.

Reports also tell us that the UK has become a more unequal society over the last decade.
(A ten percent pay rise (dream on wage earners) for those on low incomes is small in absolute terms when considered against a 10% for top earners (I note that company executives regulary take double digit % percentage pay rises - according to Private Eye).

Now to my mind equality of outcome would be more balanced if rises were given on a mix of absolute and percentage rises. Another BBC article reported that in terms of personal happiness any income of above £50K doesn't lead to an increase in happiness. £50K was given as the figure where people don't worry about managing their finances and being able to afford 'the non-essential luxury items in life'.

To my mind a 'just' society doesn't pander to the greed of those who already have enough but want more(often to massage their 'competitive capitalist ego drives').

A just society is a society that recognises that inequality of living standards, access to health, education and community well-being is disfunctional economically and socially and causes discontent and suffering.

A sensible progressive graduated tax policy is the best way to ensure a more equitable outcome of opportunity, without unduly penalising enterprise and the personal investment of ones own labour.

My 'cherry on the top' award today goes to Lord Ashcroft. His actions for the last 10 years and his disregard of promises he made when he took a seat in Lords damages both the faith we have in the 'justness' of our current democratic system and the Conservative party, whom he bankrolled much to the same degree that the Unions bankroll the Labour party.

I shall watch with interest to see how 'Milliband the Younger' weathers death by Murdock, D'Arce and Desmond.

The Great Councillini said...

10/10, Prometheus. A joy to read.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

TGC

"I'm not sure that having no life experience outside politics necessarily makes Ed Milliband - or David Cameron - any less able to lead."

There is currently an unfortunate trend whereby an increasingly large number of MPs (and AMs for that matter) have gone straight from University to being a researcher for whichever party and then have been elected themselves with virtually no experience of life outside of the political bubble.

"I also don't think the evidence shows that Ed Milliband is saying we do not need to make any cuts ... Ed may be wrong, but he is certainly amongst a group of enlightened people who share the view that deep, speedy cuts may have undesirable consequences for the economy."

"Enlightened" is a very loaded word to use in the field of economics - a field which is a long way from being a science. There are large numbers of respected economists on both sides of the argument. However I note with interest that the IMF had this to say today about the coalitions actions: "the government’s strong and credible multi-year fiscal deficit reduction plan is essential to ensure debt sustainability.”

"As for ripping the shirts off those less fortunate that us, then I think this is a natural if not inevitable consequence of the free market system."

A free market system only means that hundreds of millions of people are able to make choices for themselves on how to use their money. I believe as such they are not intrinsically inclined towards " ripping the shirts off those less fortunate that us".

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Prometheus - fair comment. Here's my reply:

"Access to those institutions whose graduates occupy the 'top jobs' in society is now very much the domain of those privileged by wealth."

Unfortunately this is inevitable in a society which for ideological reasons stops the means whereby poor but intelligent children could get an education of the standard available for a fee in public schools. I don't believe that the current unions and local authority controlled comprehensive education system is fit for purpose and am very glad to see the Coalition introduce free schools. There needs to be a competition of ideas in education if things are to improve for everyone.

"A sensible progressive graduated tax policy is the best way to ensure a more equitable outcome of opportunity, without unduly penalising enterprise and the personal investment of ones own labour."

We already have a progressive graduated tax policy. Or are you implying that it should become more progressive yet?

Anonymous said...

Prometheuswrites said

...There was a BBC Radio 4 programme today...
and

...Another BBC article reported that...


You lost your argument by referring to this institutionally biased corporation. (see BiasedBBC blog)


Wont be long before it's some kind of Godwins Law to quote them

Anonymous said...

Energy Island, don't make me laugh, what planet are these 2 clowns from?

Prometheuswrites said...

Druid:
I think the top end of the income bracket could probably bear a higher rate. My point about incomes rising over the last decade is that the top end rises disproportionately in absolute income terms.

You are right about the education system. It needs a radical overhaul. I'll wait and see what the Free Schools policy results in, but I'm not sure that educational provision is all of the problem.
I think biggest problem is something to do with what education itself is about.
I think any changes to the education system need to be driven by teachers and pupils, not politicians.

The Red Flag said...

I think any changes to the education system need to be driven by teachers and pupils, not politicians.

Personally I'd have thought it was more realistic to base it on the anticipated needs of the economy - starting with a workforce being able to read, write and count as a bare minimum.

Prometheuswrites said...

Anon 19.10

Strangely enough Pandora and I were just discussing the thin broth that the BBC have been serving up.

The spelling and grammer on the web-pages leave something to be desired and the investigative depth has dropped since the 'dodgy dossier' affair.

However the world service has excellent programmes from a global perspective, often gritty news that doesn't make it onto the regular channels.

I also tend towards trusting the validity of their news, (though checking alternate sources always helps).
Haven't you ever played the game of 'where has that news item I heard/saw gone?
(Like the truck container of uranium isotope detected on the Bulgarian border in transit to Iraq - before the war - mentioned once on PM and then vanished into the ether).

Yes, it is inevitably biased, (and even censored), as there is editoral choice (or dictat, if you see it that way).

The interviews I listened to weren't with BBC researchers, but with other outside researchers, also quoted elsewhere in the mainstream media, and I've no reason to doubt the existance/validity of the data they are presenting.
I may or may not agree with their interpretation or view.

In the past I've occassionaly found good news stream websites, reporting mainstream, hometown and 'strange' news, but they all seem to have slowly disappeared or have been bought up.

If you know a good web-site or news outlet that gives a full spread of unbiased news or at least an unbiased collection of biased news then please post the address on the blog.

Prometheuswrites said...

Red Flag:
Part of my point: Education isn't job training, though job training is part of an education.

Part of the problem we've got has been the move towards treating pupils and students as educational units, subject to checks and measures that have little to do with 'getting an education' and a lot to do with learning to pass tests (not just the pupils) and allow everybody to tick the 'pay me' boxes.

This is a huge topic though - it would need a thread of it's own.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Prometheus - I agree. I have been intending to write on education for some time. I will now try and get on with it...