Top Corbynista Chris Williamson has been sacked from the Labour frontbench. He was Shadow Fire Minister. Williamson claims he resigned because he wants to campaign more freely on issues that matter to him. Sources close to Corbyn insist Williamson’s return to the backbenches was a mutual decision, which isn’t quite the same as saying he wasn’t sacked…
UPDATE: Statements from Labour and Chris Williamson:
Chris Williamson said:
“I will be standing down from my role with immediate effect so that I can return to the backbenches, where I will be campaigning on a broader range of issues. I will continue to loyally support the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn from the backbenches and hope to be a voice for the party’s members.”
Jeremy Corbyn said:
“I am grateful for Chris’ work on the frontbench, particularly on fire safety following the appalling Grenfell Tower Fire. I know that on the backbenches, Chris will be a strong campaigner on a range of crucial issues as well as serving his constituents with dedication.”
This week Williamson reiterated his support for doubling council tax on some properties – though that is a long-held view which Williamson has previouly expressed in public. All is not well in the world of the top Corbynistas…
Last year the BBC travel doc Russia With Simon Reeve made the rather worrying claim that reindeer populations across Northern Russia are “in steep decline because of climate change”.In fact, most populations of Eurasian Reindeer are now increasing in number or are stable…
After a complaint from Lord Lawson, the BBC has issued a correction – which pointedly stops short of an apology:
“This programme suggested that many reindeer populations are in steep decline because of climate change. It would have been more accurate to say that many reindeer populations are threatened by it.”
The Global Warming Policy Forum said:
“Even the assertion that they are “threatened” is highly questionable given their growing populations. Sadly, this kind of speculative claim is entirely predictable because any prediction of future climate disaster is impossible to verify, yet likely to be believed by a great many people.”
All in all, climate alarmists have tried and failed in their attempt to make the reindeer the new polar bear. What would Rudolph say?
It’s taken a while, but Guido is pleased to report that Ben Fogle, Sue Perkins, Debroah Meaden and Rachel Riley have all either retracted, deleted or apologised for their tweets, or clarified that they now support the government’s entirely sensible position on animal sentience. Tough 24 hours for celebs on Twitter. Still, at least they’re not Olly Murs…
The Independent has retracted its story claiming that “the Tories have rejected all scientists and voted that animals don’t feel pain” and admitted that it circulated false information to potentially millions of people. In a clarification published last night, the Indy says its report “was not right”:
“Put simply, what happened is this: MPs did not vote that animals are not sentient creatures…
Campaigners – and some news coverage – initially said that the Government had voted against recognising sentience. The Independent was among publishers that reported the story in that way. But it became clear that this claim was not right, even though it had been interpreted by some campaigners in that way. (The Independent updated its coverage to ensure it was accurate).”
The original Indy story was shared thousands of times and was a key factor in half a million people signing a petition repeating the claim. Stories about the Tories and animal sentience were viewed by 2 million people this week. Doubt the Indy’s retraction will be seen by a tenth of that.
Fair play to Ben Fogle, who tells Guido “I am happy to apologise and add clarity” after he tweeted the viral fake news story on animal sentience to his 336,000 followers. Sue Perkins, Rachel Riley, Caroline Lucas and the RSPCA have been less willing to admit they were wrong…
This week a number of stories claiming the Tories had voted that animals are not sentient beings went mega-viral. An article on the Independent website – shared thousands of times on social media – reported “The Tories have rejected all scientists and voted that animals don’t feel pain”. The Evening Standard claimed they “just voted that animals cannot feel pain or emotions”. The Indy, which has truly become one of the most downmarket trash clickbait websites around, even named and shamed the Tory MPs “who voted legislation on animals feeling pain and emotion”. These attacks were tweeted out by celebrities like Ben Fogle and Sue Perkins, politicians including Caroline Lucas and failed LibDem MP Sarah Olney, and petitions were signed by hundreds of thousands of unwitting animal lovers. The stats are huge:
Analysis shows 2 million people have seen articles and tweets about the Tories voting against animal sentience
155,157 signed a Change.org petition repeating the claim
263,476 signed another petition on 38 Degrees
43,081 signed a third petition on ThePetitionSite
Nearly 30,000 have signed smaller petitions (that’s almost 500,000 overall)
Sue Perkins shared it with her 1 million followers
Rachel Riley shared it with her 510,000 followers
Ben Fogle shared it with his 336,000 followers
Caroline Lucas shared it with her 276,000 followers
The RSPCA tweeted it out to their 248,000 followers
Just one problem. It is fake news…
During last Wednesday’s debate, Tory MPs repeatedly explained that the government already recognised animal sentience and that the amendment was flawed. Read it here in Hansard – Tory MP after Tory MP stood up and agreed that animals are sentient. No MPs argued against animal sentience. It is just not true to say, as the Indy did, that “The Tories have rejected all scientists and voted that animals don’t feel pain”. Anyone who has seen the Environment Secretary with his Bichon Frise Snowy, or indeed the hedgehog above, knows these viral articles are fake news. This made up story, circulated by the Tories’ opponents for solely cynical reasons, is cutting through to animal lovers who think they can trust things they believe on the Independent website. This morning Michael Gove categorically committed the government to animal sentience once and for all. He couldn’t be clearer:
“This government will ensure that any necessary changes required to UK law are made in a rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU.”
Will that go as viral as the fake news BS that hoodwinked thousands in the last week?
Greg Barker, now m’Lord Barker of Battle, Cameron’s husky hugging companion and former swivel-eyed Energy & Climate Change minister, has found a use for his experience gained in Government. Long a fan of Russian billionaires, Barker is the newly-appointed chairman of EN+, a Russian energy and aluminium conglomerate controlled by oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Barker’s first job is to bring a veneer of respectability to the energy company as it floats on the LSE. He’ll have his work cut out…
More troubling are EN+’s ties to VTB Bank, the Russian lender that has been sanctioned by the US and EU since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. As the Spectator pointed out:
EN+ says it intends to use the ‘primary proceeds’ of the share offering ‘to repay a portion of its debt’ – which is owed largely to Russian banks such as VTB (also an EN+ shareholder) that helped bail out Deripaska’s businesses with Kremlin support after the 2008 crash, and are currently subject to US and EU sanctions. So London investors’ money will be flowing back into Putin’s other-wise ostracised banking system.
With sanctions still in place on VTB and Russia, Barker has to convince investors that this deal does not violate sanctions. He’ll have an even harder time explaining to Cameron why he’s working around sanctions his own government helped put in place…
Aside from all that, take a moment to reflect on the sheer cynicism of a husky hugging Climate Change hyping minister becoming Chairman of a coal-mining to aluminum smelting conglomerate. One Tory grandee told Guido that Barker “must be short of cash.”
Last month LibDem Tom Brake tabled an Early Day Motion on air pollution. It specifically called on government to end subsidies for ‘red diesel’ (red-dyed, lower VAT diesel that is meant for use in agricultural machinery rather than cars):
“That this House notes the Government’s plans to tackle Britain’s air pollution crisis and improve air quality…further notes that reduced duty red diesel for certain uses costs HM Treasury £2.4 billion annually; believes that subsidising red diesel also inhibits the Government’s plans to support the take-up of cleaner technologies and tackle air pollution effectively…”
In Brake’s Carshalton and Wallington constituency there are proposals to build a giant rubbish incinerator. Brake’s website proudly trumpets his support for the incinerator in a lengthy defence of the project. There’s just one thing: the proposed incinerator will burn 2,000 tonnes of red diesel per year (in order for the internal temperature to reach the necessary levels). A co-conspirator writes: “If Mr Brake is so keen on cutting the use of red diesel and air pollution, why has he supported the Viridor Incinerator?”. Guido has written previously about murkiness with Brake and Viridor.His Carshalton constituency is a real rotten borough, this is the tip of the iceberg…
A reclusive American multi-millionaire who has backed anti-immigrant and population control campaigns has funded green charities in Britain through a charitable foundation. Fred Stanback, heir to the Stanback headache powder fortune, is said to have backed household name charities including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. The NGOs have directly lobbied UK ministers and bankrolled parliamentary candidates…
Stanback’s support for controversial anti-immigrant and population control causes has been well documented in the US media. Population control advocates are closely linked to wealthy American environmentalists; they believe that environmental problems stem from there being too many people on the planet. Stanback has:
Donated $500,000 to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group whose leaders are said to have ties to white supremacists and eugenicists;
Purchased $5,000 worth of copies of the novel The Camp of the Saints from the American Immigration Control Foundation to distribute. The book is widely acknowledged as a racist work and has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “racist fantasy”;
Funded a Duke University internship programme which placed interns at anti-immigration organisations, until a public outcry forced Duke University to remove these organisations from the approved list after the affiliations came to light in 2013;
Raised concerns that “Catholic interests” were the primary motivation behind the Wall Street Journal’s opposition to immigration control.
Stanback is said to channel his donations to green groups through the Foundation for the Carolinas (FFTC), a non-profit community foundation. According to US IRS filings, the FFTC has given:
$6,000,000 to Friends of the Earth;
$3,000,000 to Greenpeace;
$2,000,000 to the Dogwood Alliance (a US organisation that worked with Friends of the Earth on a major campaign to shut down biomass plants and other related energy businesses in the U.K).
The report concludes:
“The financial connections between these organisations and major funders like Fred Stanback strongly suggest that these environmental NGOs willingly received funding from the same source that funds population control and anti-immigrant groups on a large scale, and apparently without anyone in the environmental world publicly questioning the moral or financial integrity of using the money.”
Stay tuned this week for more in Guido’s Green NGO Sockpuppets series…
Last month Guido told how Labour MP Barry Sheerman has become the first serving MP to register as a lobbyist. Sheerman’s activities, conducted through his firm Policy Connect, caused industry groups to write letters of complaint to Parliament’s Standards Commissioner over the perceived conflict of interest. How can you properly serve your constituents and simultaneously be a registered lobbyist?
Yesterday the Huddersfield MP tweeted a picture of himself alongside the quote:
“Smart meters are a great way of using technology to help save money and make an environmental impact. It is great to hear so many homes in Huddersfield embracing smart meters and I would like to encourage more people to learn about the benefits of this technology.”
It must be a coincidence that Sheerman’s Policy Connect has put out a report on energy policy which, you guessed it, promotes smart meters. Contributors to the research included British Gas, EDF and Agility ECO: all firms in the smart meter business.Sheerman advising his constituents to use products directly linked to his lobbying activities…
Green NGOs are spending millions lobbying against the interests of British taxpayers, analysis by the Taxpayers’ Alliance has found. Taxpayers’ cash received by charities including Friends of the Earth and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is being splurged on partisan political activities such as supporting parliamentary candidates and lobbying ministers. The cash has been used to block projects which experts say would bring down energy costs for consumers.
The RSPB received £27.5 million in grants from UK taxpayers in 2015 and 2016. Its sister organisation Birdlife International received the third highest amount of European Commission taxpayer funding of any green group, being granted €3.8 million. Likewise, Friends of the Earth received the second highest amount of any such group, being handed €7.6 million. In conjunction with Greenpeace (which does not receive EC funding), these charities have acted more like pressure groups by:
Orchestrating a massive media campaign to fight a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point;
Launching law suits to obstruct the construction of new power stations;
Lobbying the UK government to prevent expansion of infrastructure;
Lobbying successfully to prevent exploration for shale gas taking place in Wiltshire;
Publishing misleading advertising to influence consumer and public opinion, and spread falsehoods about shale gas exploration.
Friends of the Earth also spent more than £100,000 backing a pro-Green crop of parliamentary candidates. The Electoral Commission intervened and fined Friends of the Earth for failing to register properly as a donor. The amount spent was way over the limit imposed on candidates themselves in the final stages of the election campaign…
Meanwhile, the Pesticide Action Network, which has received more than €710,000 from the European Commission over the past decade, is currently campaigning to ban glyphosate (a weed killer). The pressure group claims glyphosate is a “potentially cancer-inducing chemical”, despite Europe’s own chemicals regulator, the European Chemicals Agency, finding
“The available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria… to classify glyphosate for specific target organ toxicity, or as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or for reproductive toxicity.”
A ban would cost taxpayers £228 million a year. A probe carried out by the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute found that, overall:
A total of €86.5 million has been given to a range of environmental groups by the European Commission over the past 10 years;
34 groups have been given more than €1 million.
This enormous pile of taxpayers cash is being ploughed into lobbying activities which directly prevent UK taxpayers from benefiting from cheaper energy and new infrastructure. Taxpayers’ Alliance Chief Executive John O’Connell said:
“It’s bad enough that politicians are piling costs onto consumers with their hare-brained energy schemes, but the fact that taxpayers are paying pressure groups to campaign against their interests adds insult to injury.
“There are plenty of reasons for the government to stop this gravy train in its tracks as it is, but the fact that some of these groups have run dishonest campaigns and fallen foul of electoral commission rules must surely be a final nail in the coffin for this taxpayer funded lobbying.”
Stay tuned this week for more in Guido’s Green NGO Sockpuppets series…
This morning Policy Exchange hosted an event about small modular reactors (SMRs) – the technology is derived from nuclear-powered submarine systems. A consortium led by Rolls Royce is pushing the idea of using new nuclear technology scaled down to a fraction of the size of older plant designs. The mini-plants would be made in factories to be re-assembled on site much more quickly and cheaply than large-scale projects like Hinkley. Rolls-Royce reckons the global export market could be worth as much as £400 billion for the made-in-Britain technology.
The report claims that the mini-plants would produce power at £60/MWh, which is far more competitive than the £92/MWh strike price guaranteed to Hinkley by George Osborne. It is clear that as old power stations are decommissioned Britain is going to need to replace them – wind is too intermittent to make up for the loss of capacity – nuclear is going to have to be part of the energy supply mix. Hinkley type technology is just too expensive.
Greenpeace, the Green Party and Caroline Lucas are celebrating a 50% drop in the price of offshore wind power with tweets galore using the graphic above. It sounds like great news for electricity bill payers that the price of wind power has dropped 50%. It is not quite as good as it sounds.
The government’s guaranteed price to wind power producers has dropped 50% in 2 years. The price to the consumer will still be set in the energy market place. A welcome saving to taxpayers it may be, it is not a 50% drop in the price to the consumer. Shale gas would likely be even cheaper if the Greens got out of the way and let the industry get on with fracking it. The Green Party and their allies are the cause of higher energy prices.
Caroline Lucas is making out that that somehow the even more heavily subsidised nuclear industry could be ditched in favour of renewables. In reality given that wind power produces less than 5% of the UK’s energy needs and the output is basically zero for 64% of the time this is not very likely. She’s spinning more than the wind turbines.
Green and Liberal Democrat constituencies are the most expensive areas to live in the UK, with Tory seats in third place, according to research linking house prices to party support.
The research commissioned by Bridging Loan Hub reveals that, when analysing the average house price in all 650 UK constituencies, at £394,577, the sole Green constituency (Brighton Pavilion) pips the Lib Dems, with an average value of £368,517. Despite their reputation as the party of the rich, Conservative seats are only the third most expensive in Britain, averaging £330,585 per home.
Conservative seats also have the greatest range in house prices. The difference between the most and least expensive Tory constituencies is £2,082,689 and Labour follow closely behind with a £2,014,780 difference. Seats held by Jeremy Corbyn’s party have £265,762 homes on average, with constituencies ranging from £90,058 to £2,104,838. Sinn Féin strongholds in Northern Ireland have the cheapest homes nationally, averaging just £133,820 per property across their seven seats with the lowest average price for any single constituency: £88,178 in West Tyrone.
This will come as no surprise to people who have been out canvassing in Tory-LibDem swing seats like Richmond…
Usually it is those of us of a more libertarian bent who rail against regulations that prevent individuals with enterprise creating goods and services which do no harm to others. Growing your own cannabis, picking psilocybin mushrooms for traditional religious festivals or brewing your own moonshine for personal consumption is celebrated by most of us with free market leanings. It is usually interfering nanny staters like the Green Party who want to regulate, ban and tax the voluntary exchange of goods and services between consenting adults…
Natalie is making her own “BlackBerry Whiskey” – sounds like a cracking idea. However it is actually illegal to manufacture spirits in the UK without a distiller’s licence as required under the provisions of Section 12 of the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979 and this includes manufacture for “own or domestic use”. Public Notice 39 – “Spirits production in the UK” provides details of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs’ requirements – they are quite draconian. If Natalie is brewing whiskey, she has got a distiller’s licence, right?Natalie is a relentless campaigner for tighter regulation of food production, the distilling of spirits has been regulated for centuries – home distillers having a tendency to produce moonshine that blinded consumers or poisoned them. Natalie is in favour of coming down hard food producers who break the law…
UPDATE:Some are suggesting that she is merely infusing blackberries into whiskey. This is a worse crime. Ruins the whiskey.
Green subsidies – levied on consumer bills – will treble by 2021-22, The Office for Budget Responsibility says. The controversial tax take will rise from £4.6 billion in 2015-16 to £13.5 billion in 2021-22. The cash will be spent on subsidising economically non-viable energy, such as solar and wind farms. Earlier this week Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, got into a public spat with the government, blaming green levies for putting an extra £149 a year on household bills. The firm said green taxes caused “significant pressures” on pricing and that there was no option but to pass costs on to customers. Centrica CEO Ian Conn said:
“It is transmission and distribution of electricity to the home and government policy costs that are driving our price increase.”
A spinner for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) claimed: “A number of independent reports have shown energy policy costs make up a relatively small proportion of household energy bills.”
Days later the government’s own forecaster admits green policy costs will treble…
Five solar-powered “smart benches” installed throughout Jez’s constituency will be ripped up after the Corbynista politician in charge failed to seek planning permission from her own council. Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington’s Executive Member for Transport and Environment – and pro-Corbyn NEC member – oversaw a project to erect the elaborate high-tech benches in North London. The seats contain phone charging sockets and offer free wi-fi, but also feature a slew of environmental probes which monitor temperature, CO2, humidity and even ambient noise levels. At the time of their installation, Webbe told the Islington Gazette:
“These pioneering Smart Benches offer the best advances in smart technology and we are very pleased Islington is one of the first places in London to trial them. We look forward to seeing how they benefit residents, workers and visitors alike.”
Strawberry Energy, the firm which designed the benches, said their environmental credentials were:
“Especially relevant in support of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s aim to improve the capital’s air quality.”
But Webbe and her colleagues failed to obtain the necessary approvals before works went ahead. Retrospective applications for five out of six benches were rejected last month by Webbe’s own planning department. The taxpayer will meet the cost of ripping them from the ground…
Planning documents reveal the project would probably never gone ahead had permission been sought prior to construction. The Metropolitan Police warned users would be at risk of having their phones stolen and that the benches could be subject to criminal damage. Transport for London objected outright to several of the benches, saying they “add to street clutter in a designated conservation area.” Residents group the Islington Society said they were“a blight on the borough landscape”. Guido has asked the Labour-run council to put a figure on the total cost of the project, including of ripping up the smart benches. Corbynistas lose seats…
Webbe was an early supporter of Corbyn’s leadership bid and worked on Ken Livingstone’s London mayoral campaign. Just this week she gave an interview where she condemned moderate Labour MPs, saying:
“Parliament is so all consuming MPs almost forgot what the real world is about and they had become so believing of their own hype. What was sustaining them was their interaction with the mainstream media and their interactions with big businesses. There is a real world out there. It’s not that they didn’t know austerity was biting and hurting.”
Guardianista eco-warrior George Monbiot will be in a fowl mood today after he was caught out employing underhand statistical wizardry in an attempt to bash Brexit. Monbiot used his Guardian column to heavily hint that chlorinated chicken could be a factor behind poultry-borne infection rates which he claimed “four and five times higher in North America than in Europe“. He wrote:
“[The Adam Smith Institute] says that figures from the World Health Organisation reveal that salmonella and campylobacter infections there are “not out of line” with rates in the European Union. I checked the source: the WHO study the Adam Smith Institute cited. While the incidence of campylobacter is similar, it shows that the burdens of infection per head of population from the two species of salmonella it analyses – Salmonella typhi and Salmonella paratyphi – are, respectively, four times and five times higher in North America than in Europe. I cannot state that this is caused by chlorinated chicken, as the WHO doesn’t provide such detail. But I can state that the Adam Smith Institute’s claim is false.”
The problem with Monbiot’s wizardry it is nonsense. As the ASI comprehensively demonstrates:
“When you compare developed Western Europe, where we use the farm-to-fork approach, to developed North America, where they mostly chlorine wash at the end, the rates of the two types of salmonella seem higher in the US. But what Monbiot doesn’t report are the actual numbers. Salmonella Paratyphi A and Salmonella Typhi infections are so rare in both subregions that the difference Monbiot highlights is trivial in the context of total infections, which the WHO weights according to the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost to them. The figures are 0.1 and 0.4 DALYs per 100,000 in North America versus 0.02 and 0.09 in Western Europe, respectively. But even those average estimates are misleading: the 95% confidence intervals on those numbers all touch zero, and include the rates of the opposite countries. That is: the stats are statistically insignificant from each other. When you drill down to two such specific sub-figures, relying on imperfect sources, you can’t draw a clear result. It’s like rolling two dice three times and arguing the one with the higher number is loaded: you haven’t got enough data to make that conclusion.”
Monbiot tried to hold out on Twitter, rudely dismissing those who politely pointed out he was wrong:
These rather unfortunate tweets have been deleted and he has now belatedly admitted his mistake:
2/2: It is fair to say the rates are similar. I will support a correction in the Guardian. My apologies.
The UK government’s ban on petrol and diesel car sales from 2040 caused many to jump on the electric-powered outrage bus this week. Let’s start with London mayor Sadiq Khan, who instantly panned the policy as soon as it was announced:
“A half-hearted commitment from Government simply isn’t good enough… The commitment to phase out sales of new diesel cars is welcome, but Londoners suffering right now simply can’t afford to wait until 2040.”
He’s changed his tune. Khan lavished praised on the French government when it instituted the same policy earlier this month:
“I welcome the strong leadership the French government has shown by making the decision to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. This radical step shames the timid and insufficient response of our own government to the health threat posed by poor air quality.”
Shameless from Sadiq.
Meanwhile, environmental lawyers ClientEarthcalledthe UK government’s move a “diversionary tactic”:
“The 2040 diesel and petrol ban, while important is a diversionary tactic and doesn’t deal with the public health emergency caused by illegally polluted air, now.”
Hmm. Doesn’t quite tally with the views of ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, who – like Khan – warmly embraced the French government when it enacted the very same policy:
“This is a huge statement of intent from the French government and an example of how we’re likely to see exponential change in the coming years as governments grapple with the necessary changes we have to make for air quality and our climate… These moves should be heeded by other governments and industry, who need to act to protect us from air pollution in our towns and cities and help mitigate climate change.”
It’s brilliant when the French do it, a “diversion” when the British do it…
The most egregious example comes from Greenpeace. The environmentalist ultras condemned the UK government’s ban as “headline-grabbing” and “redundant“, saying:
“5 things the government doesn’t want you to know about their headline-grabbing petrol and diesel ban… It could be far too late — and end up redundant…”
But when the French instituted the same ban, Greenpeace criticised the UK government for “stalling” and not introducing it sooner:
“The move away from fossil fuel powered cars towards electric is inevitable, and picking up speed fast. First Volvo, now France, yet the UK government is still stalling.”
Michael Gove flatly ruled out chlorinated chicken in Brexit Britain’s supermarkets on the Today programme, hours after Liam Fox insisted there was no health issue with US-style chemically washed poultry. Fox is right that this whole row is confected and that the science doesn’t justify the ruffled feathers.[…] Read the rest