Monday, 5 June 2017

Replacing Trident with an obsolete system

There are many arguments against replacing Trident with a new submarine-launched nuclear weapons system. Critics like me have argued that its ridiculously expensive, that its proponents can't say when it should be used, that its use would be illegal under international law and that its a Cold War system that's irrelevant to today's geopolitics.

We also note that our nuclear weapons did not deter the Russians from annexing Crimea or DAESH from conquering half of Iraq.

But here's another one - it may be too easy to detect by the time its ready.

Writing in New Scientist (27 May, p37-39) David Hambling reminds us that nuclear submarines are big and release a lot of heat. Therefore a big nuclear sub makes noise, disturbs the water and leaves traces. Hambling reports evidence that such traces may be detectable for hours to days after the sub has passed; much longer than generally thought. The best research on this is, of course, secret.

There's another reason. The development of AI and low-cost drones has vastly reduced the cost and increased the effectiveness of airborne surveillance. This is also being extended to underwater surveillance. By the time we launch our new Dreadnought submarines the skies and seas may be full of nosy drones happily reporting their positions to Washington, Moscow, Beijing - or even, via a new app, to a phone near you!

£100B would be a lot to pay for a secure nuclear deterrent whose position isn't actually secret.

Shoud we increase social mobility?

Several electors have asked me to support the TeachFirst manifesto which presents education as the main tool for increasing social mobility. The measures in the manifesto look sound and would help to reduce educational inequality and improve education generally. Our education system certainly needs help. Caught between rising pupil numbers and constant government meddling its losing really committed teachers. So I do support the manifesto.

But I have a couple of reservations:
  • There's too much emphasis on university education. I enjoyed and benefited from my time at university but its not for everyone. For many young people good vocational training would be easier to access and more valuable than a degree in one of the less useful subjects. (I write as a man educated at a Technical School.) Its also what we need as a society - look how well it works in Germany.
  • Social mobility is two-edged. Since the number of management and professional jobs is not increasing measures that give more of them to the children of poorer families will give fewer to the children of other families. Attempts to make that change will increase the competitive pressures in schools - and that's already grossly excessive. So these measures need to be linked with measures that make the less well-paid jobs more attractive and enable those who do them to live decent lives. When I was young that was possible. It's now very difficult.
We live in a very unequal society and this, as the Spirit Level showed, harms everyone - though it harms the poor a good deal more than the rich. We Greens believe in reducing inequality by a variety of means including paying a Universal Basic Income and increasing taxes on the rich.

Greens want a fairer society but we also want a different society. One in which hospital porters as well as doctors, teaching assistants as well as teachers, are paid enough to live decent lives. That needs many policies, notably on housing, pursued over many years.

That's why I'm Green.


Friday, 26 May 2017

Why pay for coal?

Coal is the dirtiest fuel we have. Coal burning produces more pollution than other fuels and more than twice as much CO2 per killowatt-hour than gas,

So why does the UK government subsidise coal? A recent Overseas Development Institute (ODI) report shows that the UK provides subsidies of £356M per year to the UK coal sector. That's despite its stated commitment to phasing out coal-burning no later than 2025.

This makes no sense. It ought to stop.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

More Prevention not More Cure: Dealing with knife crime

The arrest of a 14-year old "in connection with a stabbing that killed Joao Ricardo Gomes" is almost as sad as the stabbing itself. For all we know about the boy arrested is that he is a boy. Not, almost certainly, a desperate criminal. A boy with family and friends. If this boy was involved in the stabbing then his life, and his family's, will change - though not as much as Joao Gomes' life.

Local politicians have made predicable noises. Nick de Bois wants more enforcement of his 'Enfield law' whilst Joan Ryan wants more police. And, yes, laws should be enforced and seven years of Tory cuts do need to be reversed.