Lord Toby Harris Logo

Archive for the ‘Climate change’ Category

Monday
Jun 7,2010

Ken Livingstone has announced that one of his objectives if re-elected as Mayor in 2012 will be to make London the world’s first “Smart City”.

The examples he give include:

  • easing parking chaos in London if re-elected by bringing in a system like that used in San Francisco, where 6,000 of the 24,000 metered parking places are fitted with sensors that allow drivers to find spaces via wi-fi. The American city’s $23 million network shows available spots on motorists’ mobile phones and electronic street signs. If drivers want to add more time to a parking meter they can also do it by mobile.
  • using real-time “smart meters” to cut energy use in homes and businesses. In Sweden these have resulted in a 24 per cent reduction in energy use.

He expands on his ideas in more details at LabourList.

What he demonstrates is a long-term strategic vision for London that would not only benefit its residents but give London the edge in international competitiveness.  His ideas also highlight the lack of strategic vision currently displayed by the Conservatives in London.

Friday
May 21,2010

The full Government list has now been published and I note that no fewer than ten Ministers are not drawing a salary.  I think this must be a record.

Presumably, some Ministers are sufficiently wealthy that they regard the Ministerial stipends on offer as just not worth bothering about – although there are clearly  others who despite being very well off have decided to take the money.

It would be interesting to know whether any of those declining a salary have been given any exemptions from the usual rules about holding other external appointments whilst serving as a Minister.

For the record the unpaid ten are:

The three marked with an * are LibDems.

Saturday
May 8,2010

The recent General Election means that I have only just spotted an item that was in the Daily Mail a week or so back.  This reports that:

“A routine traffic-stop in Switzerland has allegedly thwarted eco-terrorists from blowing up the site of the £55million nano-technology HQ of IBM in Europe.

The three members – two men and a woman – of the Italian terrorist group Il Silvestre were stopped just a few miles from their target with their explosive device primed and ready to go.

Italians Costantino Ragusa and Silvia Guerini, together with Italian-Swiss Luca Bernasconi, were arrested and jailed after a search of their vehicle revealed the bomb.

Guerini and Constantino – the 33-year-old leader of Il Silvestre – already have convictions for eco-terrorism offences and have served jail terms. 

The group describes itself as anarchist and is opposed to all forms of micro-technology as well as nuclear power and weapons.

Swiss police said today that their car was halted on the night of April 15 at Langnau en-route to the technology centre at Rueschlikon, near Zurich. 

The site is due to be opened next year and already has some of the most complex and advanced computer equipment in the world installed in it.

‘A large quantity of explosives was found,’ said a police spokesman.”

The report continues:

“The IBM facility that the Il Silvestre group was targeting is still under construction.  When finished, it will contain the most state-of-the-art facilities in Europe for nano-and-bio-technological research, with the probability of billions of pounds in profit for IBM.

Investigators are quizzing the suspects on whether the planned attack is part of a new co-ordinated wave of terror against such facilities on the continent.

Swiss media reported that the intended bombing was planned to coincide with a secret meeting of European anarchists on April 16 and 17 in the Swiss town of Winterthur.

Some newspapers speculated it was being planned to bring attention to the imprisonment of Il Silvestre member Marco Camenisch, currently in jail for the murder of a Swiss border guard.  Guerini and Constantino were in jail with him in 2006 and joined in a hunger strike.

Il Silvestre was spawned in the Tuscan countryside and is now considered to be one of the rising terror groups in Europe with a rigid cell structure, access to explosives and a membership that has no qualms about killing to achieve its goals.

It is considered as one of the successor groups to the lethal Red Brigades that scorched Italy in 70’s and 80’s.”

This is a timely reminder that – as I have repeatedly argued – the focus of counter-terrorist work must not just be on al Qaeda inspired groups.  There is a need to think outside the box and be aware of a much wider range of potential threats.

Tuesday
May 4,2010

Most political commentators are now hedging their bets in terms of what will happen after the General Election.  Nick Robinson talks about a “growing expectation” that David Cameron will be Prime Minister but then fudges it by saying that we “can’t know the outcome”.

I am prepared to make a firm prediction, however.  If the polls stay as they are and there are no last minute shifts, there WILL be a Tory Government with a small (10-20 seats) majority.

And what will happen then?

It is pretty easy to predict that too.

An emergency budget within weeks in which Chancellor George Osborne (and doesn’t that strike terror in the heart?) will solemnly tell the nation that “the books are so much worse than we expected”.  So VAT up to 20% (maybe 25%) and an immediate public sector jobs freeze and pay freeze (if not a pay cut) coupled with a massive reduction in budgets and a suspension of most public sector capital spending.  This will be softened by an emergency Bill to “enable” the “Big Society” (or the post -bureaucratic state as they originally wanted to call it).

This will enable the Cameron Government to tell the public that they don’t need to worry about the cuts in schools budgets or the collapse of SureStart or whatever else it might be, because local effort can provide alternatives or keep things going.  Hopi Sen brilliantly explains what the impact of the Swedish Schools model would mean and Luke Akehurst has the reality of “The Big Society”.

In practice, very few people will have the inclination or the opportunity to organise alternative “community-led” provision and those that do will not be the low-paid, the marginalised or the dispossessed.  And they certainly won’t be those whose families are hit by the job losses in the public sector or the double-dip private sector recession that will be precipitated by an Osborne emergency budget.

Meanwhile, Cameron’s small majority will give disproportionate influence to the fanatic Euro-sceptics and climate change deniers in the Parliamentary Conservative Party.  To keep them sweet, the UK will become totally marginalised in Europe and allied with the Sarah Palin wing of US politics – the result will be the forfeiture of Britain’s position in the world.

So an isolated, bankrupt nation with devastated public services beckons after Thursday.

It is not an enticing prospect, is it?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to happen.

Yes, there will be a Tory Government according to the present polls.

But, there is still time.  It only takes one in thirty Tory voters to realise that the Conservatives are still “the nasty Party”, one in ten of those flirting with the LibDems to realise that Nick Clegg is really Cameron-lite and decide they don’t want to help him deliver a Conservative Government, and one in ten of those that were planning not to bother to vote to realise what is at stake and that their vote matters and that their really can be “a future fair for all”.

It is not that many and all that needs to happen is that they listen to this in the next twenty-four hours.

Sunday
May 2,2010

The Ipsos MORI analysis in The Observer gives some interesting analysis of public perceptions of the three Party Leaders.

Actually, interesting is not the word – it is devastating for Nick Clegg and pretty awful for David Cameron.

When asked which of the three Party leaders would be best in a crisis, only 12% rated Nick Clegg (33% favoured David Cameron and 40% Gordon Brown).

On who is the most capable, Clegg only scored 17% (with 33% and 36% for the Cameron and Brown respectively).

And on who best understands world problems, Clegg could only muster 14% and Cameron 23%, while Gordon Brown scored 45%.

So with bombs in New York, melt-down in Greece, climate change, a fragile economy, and troops in Afghanistan, the message is quie clear:

“It’s no time for a novice.”

Tuesday
Apr 27,2010

BBC’s Newsnight, demonstrating that their editors can still take what Sir Humphrey himself might have called “a brave – if not career-limiting – decision”, have produced (in the style of  “Yes Minister“) a brilliant dissection of the Tory manifesto.

See it here.

In fact, senior mandarins have already put the finishing touches on their memos for incoming Ministers.  As one proudly told me a few days ago: 

“New Ministers in my Department are going to be faced with three really urgent and unbelievably difficult decisions as soon as they arrive and they’ll have to deal with those before we can even start to consider their manifesto commitments.”

Thursday
Apr 15,2010

I have just spoken at the Counter Terror Expo, an enormous exhibition and conference at Olympia.  I was standing in for Patrick Mercer who was apparently taken by surprise by the fact that there was going to be a General Election campaign going on when he agreed to speak.

My main theme was that we could envisage that we would be living in a much riskier society over the next twenty-five years.  The UK would be in a world:

“in which there will be greater political extremism and conflict and where radicalisers can flourish with a volatile and disaffected population in whose minds their ideas can take root.  This will be an environment in which international crime will be stronger and the restraints on it from the international community will be weaker.  There will be problems in building an international consensus as to what needs to be done as the current international certainties dissolve into a multi-polar future.

This will be a riskier society as state and city authority break down in many places and where international crime and terrorism can flourish and be nurtured in such lawless areas.

At the same time, society itself will become more vulnerable through its increasing reliance on ICT.”

I recognised the success of the Government’s CONTEST strategy with its four strands: Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare.  I pointed out that:

“This has been accompanied by substantial investment.  By next year, there will be £3.5 billion spent on counter-terrorism.  The number of  police engaged in CONTEST has risen by 70% and the Security Service has doubled in size.

The strategy has been effective.  Since 2001, 200 people have been convicted of terrorist related offences and over a dozen significant plots have been disrupted  In addition, in the last four years, some 250 people have been excluded from the country on national security grounds or on the basis of their activities.”

But went on to point out that in the future more will need to be done:

“to ensure that the CONTEST strategy builds in expecting the unexpected.  We must be ready to look beyond al Qaeda, recognising the developing picture of dissident republicans in Northern Ireland, other political and regional struggles elsewhere in the world (certain in the knowledge that the diaspora from those struggles will be here in London) and new challenges such as those holding extreme ecological views who may have come to believe that mankind is so bad for the future of the planet that that future would be improved if mankind’s population was dramatically reduced.

We must be constantly vigilant about symbolic and iconic sites, economic targets, and all places of mass resort.  We must recognise the risks posed by terrorist groups or individuals seeking to have access to CRBRN weapons or materials and the implications of both our greater cyber-dependence and the opportunities that that provides to an increasingly cyber-aware opposition.

And at the same time we must continue to work with all our communities to build support for and trust in the responses that are being made.”

And as I said:

“Whoever is responsible for taking counter-terrorism forward after 6th May is going to have their hands full.”

Monday
Apr 12,2010

Left Foot Forward has launched a series of short videos that are pretty good too …

Catch the first three here.

And then pass them on …..

Thursday
Mar 18,2010
  • Through the introduction of civil partnerships, Labour has for the first time given legal recognition to same-sex partners. Gay couples now have the same inheritance, pension and next-of-kin rights as married couples.
  • More than doubled Britain’s overseas aid budget.  UK aid helps lift an estimated three million people out of poverty every year.
  • Cancelled up to 100% of debt for the world’s poorest countries.
  • Britain now has more offshore wind capacity than any other country in the world.  Wind last year provided enough electricity to power 2 million homes.
  • Launched the £1.5 billion Housing Pledge to speed up the delivery of new affordable housing and embarked on the biggest programme of council house building for twenty years.
Tuesday
Mar 16,2010
  • The UK is now smoke-free, with no smoking in most enclosed public places
  • The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are now 21% below 1990 levels, beating our Kyoto target
  • Over £20 billion invested in bringing social housing to decent standards
  • Rough sleeping has dropped by two-thirds and homelessness is at its lowest level since the early 1980s
  • Free off-peak travel on buses anywhere in England for over-60s and disabled people