The Coalition: a score-card

I have recently criticised a number of initiatives by the Coalition, so it does no harm to recall that it’s doing some things – though not everything – right.  Let’s look at a quick scorecard:

Fiscal Policy: Cameron and Osborne are quite right to see cutting the deficit, and restoring international market confidence in Britain’s public finances, as the number one priority.  And they’ve done well.  The imperative now is that they stick to their guns.  They will be challenged over and over again, most immediately by the students who are demanding money with menaces.

Welfare: Iain Duncan Smith is doing a fantastic job in dismantling Gordon Brown’s “client state” apparatus, and ensuring that work pays and that we don’t incentivise idleness.  As Simon Heffer has said “We have an underclass because we have decided to pay for one”.  We must stop paying, and I think that the Coalition’s approach here is excellent.  Again, it will take determination to see it through.

Education: Michael Gove is a hero.  Despite a couple of early gaffes, he is essentially right, and he could revolutionise education in this country, ensure that virtually all schools are good schools, and get Britain back up in the league tables.  But he will of course face massive opposition, from civil servants, from local councils, from the teaching unions.  He deserves our support.

Local government: Eric Pickles is reintroducing some bluff common sense.  And about time too.

Housing: Grant Schapps’ approach to social housing is excellent and long overdue.  I’d like to see him go further, and extend the test of need to current incumbents, subject to a reasonable notice period to recognise incumbency.

Defence: Here the good news runs out.  Liam Fox is an excellent man, and a champion of the Transatlantic Alliance.  But he has been comprehensively bowled over by the Treasury.  It cannot be right to decommission the Ark Royal, and our Harriers, when we have nothing for a decade to replace them with – and while we continue to shovel money down the black hole of “International Development”.

Health: There are some questions over Lansley’s plans for the NHS – not over objectives, but over the practical problems of driving through another massive round of change, while maintaining the effectiveness of the service and the confidence of the public.  I wish him well.  But as I have written at length elsewhere, I am sick to death of his intrusive public health initiatives.  We expect a Conservative-led government to get off our backs, and stop interfering in every aspect of our lives.  He calls it nudging, but I’m having trouble distinguishing it from Labour’s Nannying.

Justice: I recognise the financial constraints that Ken Clarke is under.  But he should not pretend that “Community Sentencing” is a meaningful punishment or deterrent.  Assurances that it can be improved lack credibility, as do esoteric arguments about whether or not prison is a deterrent, or can deliver rehabilitation.  The one thing which prison unquestionably achieves is to keep robbers and muggers and burglars off the streets.  Michael Howard was right.  Prison works.

Energy and Climate: Again I have written about this at length elsewhere.  But in summary, our current plans will destroy our industrial competitiveness; will drive a million families into fuel poverty; will beggar our grandchildren; and will deliver electricity shortages and blackouts in a few short years.  We need to get rid of Chris Huhne, and make a clear commitment to coal, gas and nuclear.

Europe: Here we come to the biggest failure of all.  William Hague has done a complete U-turn.  He may not talk like a Europhile, but he is behaving like one.  Cameron has failed to use Merkel’s desire for a new treaty as a bargaining chip.  We have acquiesced in each new piece of Euro-folly that has come up since the May election.  The proposed “Referendum Lock” legislation is so futile and transparently useless that it’s embarrassing and indefensible.  If Britain’s problem with the EU is ever to be solved, it seems more likely to be done by the disintegration of the euro, and the EU, under its own internal inconsistencies (as happened in the USSR) rather than through any decisive action by a British government.

Having waited my entire political career for a Conservative-led government, I am profoundly disappointed, and disappointed most of all on the two issues closest to my heart: Europe and climate.

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10 Responses to The Coalition: a score-card

  1. Jonathan Ward says:

    Dear Roger,

    I’m greatly concerned by your thinking on energy. It seems like the thinking of twenty or thirty years ago. Maybe Huhne’s policies are imperfect, but committing to coal and gas and nuclear flies in the face of market realities and environmental commitments. Leaving ourselves dependent upon resources that are subject to scarcity and IR games seems foolish.
    Uranium prices have jumped 45% in 4 months (see http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/35c2d7ca-f8c7-11df-b550-00144feab49a.html#axzz16fAj7ZRB ), crude oil production has peaked (Crude oil output reaches an
    undulating plateau of around 68‐69 mb/d by 2020, but never regains its all‐time peak of 70 mb/d reached in 2006 – IEA world energy outlook 2010), and coal brings numerous problems, socially and environmentally, despite its relative abundance.

    Even the IEA advocate investments in alternatives and energy efficiency to ensure oil lasts as long as it can as its energy density is hard to replicate. I would suggest that your policies would actually create fuel poverty, especially in the kind of markets that your Conservative government will allow in energy. Look how quickly bills rise from energy companies at the moment, and how slwo they are to fall with reductions in cost. And still their profits are high. Companies like EBICO offer a much better model to stopping fuel povery, as to widening the energy base and investing in using less energy where possible.

    Many institutions recognise that efforts to mitigate climate change are a key driver in energy independence and innovation, not a waste of money. What will waste money is plumping for the wrong energy mix for the wrong places, and not improving building standards so that buildings are more adaptable to different climates and use heat and energy from its staff and operations and other sources more intelligently. Being more resilient does not put you at a disadvantage.

    Regards,

    Jonathan

    • Richard J says:

      The thinking of 20 or 30 years ago brought Britain prosperity from the status of ‘sick man’. The thinking of the DECC will send us back there, to the 3 day week and worse,if you are old enough to remember it. And while in the former the good fortune of North Sea success brought prosperity, much of that economic windfall was milked and squandered on policies creating the benefit culture, producing quite the reverse of what was intended- a self perpetuating underclass. This time, there is no bonanza cushion. Just hard reality, probably confounded with the embarassing evidence that CO2 is just beneficial and benign, with no negative impact on the natural climatic cycles at all.

      • Jonathan Ward says:

        Surely though, banking on resources that the world treats as cash, not capital, like coal and oil, leaves you at the mercy of exporter nations and the vagaries of international relations? Leaving the CO2 aspect aside for a moment, it’s still good policy and good business sense to reduce your exposure to these resources and increase your own resilience.

        I’m not saying I agree with DECC’s policies across the board, I’m just saying that I think it is dangerous to continue with business as usual, and that energy and resource use is a separate subject to climate change, but with obvious implications.

        If it’s the scaleo f investment you are worried about, if you look back at the EU and our own government’s enegry funding programmes in recent decades, a lot has gone on nuclear fission and fusion, and lately the UK government has had to step in to support nuclear energy in the UK, despite it being in contravention of EC free-market principles. In the past oil, coal and gas had state support too, a lot of things do to develop. What matters is transparency in the policies to see that projects represent good value now, and down the line. Oil prices are creeping up, Gas is likely too as well this winter in this part of the world. It’s better to be adjusted and using easily available energy sources, particularly those we treat as waste currently, before the prices become so high on the fossil fuels that it does threaten energy cuts and extreme fuel poverty.

        I don’t see why people, like with arguments on climate change, have to have a dichotomy – trying to polarise subjects which are often a spectrum of views/policies.

        For instance the energy mix. Some say all wind, some say all fossil-fuels, some say all nuclear. What about a mixture with a transition away from those that are scarce and subject to external shocks to those which prove to be reliable and cost-effective?

      • Richard J says:

        The transition to new energy solutions evolves naturally when market economics favours that. Political interference in energy has a habit of making a complete botch up- look at Britoil. We have been dealt a very fair hand indeed with our fossil fuel reserve, in fact the envy of Europe. Could you honestly imagine any other of our European partners playing to lose every trick with a hand full of trumps? Madness, especially in homage to a dubious advocacy ‘science’ designed expressly to handicap the West.

  2. Ignore the critique from Jonathan Ward (see above). No government can “mitigate climate change”, even if taking collective action. Most people can now see the agenda of climate alarmism, for what it really is. Simply a blatant excuse for higher taxes, more government intervention and slowing down the growth of economies throughout the world. Most sources of alternative energy are unreliable at best, whilst also being a distraction from genuine issues of energy management and conservation. We must make the most of coal, gas and nuclear sources in the years ahead.

    • Jonathan Ward says:

      Why is work on alternative energy distraction? Why would installing Anaerobic Digestion plants between farms and organic matter waste streams and generating heat and electricity be a bad thing? Your reply seems entirely based around ideological assumptions, and not separating many issues that make up energy, energy security, policies, the environment and climate change.

      How does working towards business continuity, as M&S and Unilever do by being more sustainable and reducing vulnerability, equate with higher taxes etC? It’s actually smart business.

  3. In Roger’s summary of government progress (so far), I agree with most of his observations and comments (although not all). The bravest and most radical reforms, are being undertaken by Iain Duncan Smith. Almost as radical and impressive, are the government’s plans for reforms to our education system and NHS.

    Despite the good progress which has been made in regard to specific initiatives, our civil liberties remain under threat and we continue to live in a “surveillance society”; with an anti-Christian state and lukewarm efforts to advance the cause of localism.

  4. rightwingery says:

    Sorry, umm, is this a UKIP blog?

  5. Malcolm Parkin says:

    Roger : A good summary indeed. Defence is a real disaster and we will regret abandoning the Harrier and the Nimrod. Both British built.The aircraft carrier is a really complicated issue because we need all the back-up that goes with operating one.
    The Foreign aid must simply stop, and this is definitely the time to get out of the EU, but we won’t of course, and it will drain us for nothing. Why are we bailing out anybody in the Eurozone for heaven’s sake. It’s their problem.
    Also very disappointed that the public sector cuts amount to no more than natural wastage, and that the public sector is still recruiting.
    Regards : Malcolm Parkin

  6. Derek says:

    I also broadly agree with your summary of the Coalition, particularly on the EU and energy policy. In the case of the latter we should be relying on a broad mix with the bulk of it on gas nuclear and coal which are the most economical. As the market changes we can respond. There is no impending shortage of any fossil fuel. As prices rise, new finds become economic to extract. I have no objection to renewables, as long as they are competitive in price. What I object to, is paying a surcharge for intermittent wind.

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