Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Forty years on.

Our own government has been tilting at windmills in a highly visible attempt to make it look as if they're doing something to avert an energy crisis (of their own making) and be 'nice and green' too.

They, and their successors, might do well to look overseas to see exactly what a lot of money thrown at an environmental problem can achieve, as long as the scheme is carefully planned, carefully managed, and followed through to the end.

The article is a travel piece, but it's interesting all the same. It would seem that 40+ years ago the then ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, decided he didn't like looking at loads of desert, so he did something about it - experimenting on the island of Sir Bani Yas.

He planted mangroves, to protect and enhance the coastline. He wanted big trees, so removed loads of salty sand and replaced it with good topsoil. He made sure there was irrigation too.

Once the plants were sorted out he started on the animals, with a captive breeding programme for Arabian Oryx - which were in serious danger of extinction, and are now being released on the mainland. Perhaps the turtles, flamingoes and so on arrived in the mangroves all on their own?

It all sounds rather wonderful, although apparently the external transport links still need a bit of work. It won't bother Mrs R though, because she can't ever imagine seeing it for herself.

Have a read though, and whilst reading think on how our own government has squandered spent public money and left almost nothing to show for it, apart from an increasingly dissatisfied underclass - some of whom have been encouraged to look at the working population, see their salaries, and demand ever more handouts so they can be 'equal' without having to leave the comfort of their settee.

At about the time Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was starting his project Britain elected a Labour government, led by Mr Wilson. Another Labour government was elected in 1974, their reign ended with the "Winter of Discontent" and an IMF loan.

The current Labour government came to power 13 years ago.

Let's look at what they will leave behind - their 'inheritance'. In Abu Dabi they managed to change a desert into an oasis, has Labour, elected on a platform of change and improvement, managed to do the anything worthwhile, and long-lasting?

Well, actually, most people look at these thirteen years in bemusement, see all the bad things that have been imposed by a government with a large enough majority to be able to do exactly what it wanted, without challenge. In reality, a careful government can undo a lot of the legislative harm in a relatively short time - if they have a mind to do it, and if it's parliament's will.

(Mrs R presumes that the next government is unlikely to have a landslide majority, so will need the co-operation of other parties to pass any controversial legislation, although, of course, it could be done as now - by small committees or using statutory instruments.)

There are things that can't be undone though, not in a hurry. These things are to do with keeping the country going. In view of what we've learned over the last day or so it's hard not to wonder who paid whom to draw up the 'right' guidelines and recommendations to, effectively, stop Britain in it's tracks - because that's what will happen in the very near future unless there's fairly urgent action.

There were plans, and money put to one side, to increase Britain's electricity generating capacity - all shelved, but we got expensive windmills that don't work when it isn't windy, but do make a big show of 'doing something'. And there are still no plans for new power stations - instead we get gas from Russia, coal from just about anywhere, and the French (perhaps with a bit of help from Andrew Brown) control our electricity supply companies.

It won't matter if Contact Point is online, it won't matter if GP records are online, and it won't matter if government gives us all a personal webpage and installs a CCTV outside every house - all these things need computers, and computers need electricity. They don't seem to have thought about that important little detail.

There were plans, and money put to one side, to improve and enhance the road network - shelved by that nice Mr Prescott who put traffic lights on motorway junctions and told us to drive on the hard shoulder. Try getting onto the motorway network to travel more than 200 miles - it will take hours longer than it did ten years ago because there is more traffic and the roads are bedevilled by roadworks, often carried out by an invisible workforce.

There were plans to protect coastlines in east and south east England - shelved. Despite knowing that, due to post glacial bounceback, the landmass to the south has been sinking whilst Scotland has been rebounding from the decreased load the greenies have had their way, claimed any rise in sea levels (or sinking land) is due to global warming and can't be beaten, so it's good 'environmental practice' to abandon whole swathes of the coastline to the sea, including ancient villages - which does damn all for the people who live there, and destroys livelihoods. Odd, isn't it, how Holland can manage to keep the sea out, by spending the right sort of money on the right sort of schemes.

Foot and Mouth showed all too clearly that this country is very dependent on tourist income. When the tourists stopped coming, even for a short time, livelihoods were lost - and not only in rural areas. Since then we've been quietly haemorrhaging manufacturing capacity, and consumer prices have been rising due to increased labour costs, port taxes, transport costs, personal taxation and property charges - all of which are passed onto the consumer.

It's possible to stay in Dubai for £125 a night - in an hotel with a private beach, including flights.

Britain is less fortunate with its weather, and many people have been caught out by the grossly inaccurate Met Office forecasts.

We Rigbys know of several Americans who have been to Britain in the last twelve months, they were regular visitors to this country - love the scenery, love the history - but will not be returning. They say this country doesn't seem welcoming any more - they cite the incessant nagging tannoys and gun-toting police at our airports, and customer service staff conspicuous by their absence.

Some 'healthy yanks' dislike the anti-smoking legislation. Why should you pay a small fortune to stay in an hotel only to be forced to stand outside, with less protection from the British weather than that given to livestock, to smoke a cigarette - or pay a whopping instant fine?

Who would want to visit London when there's a risk of being arrested for taking a photograph, and who would risk flying when unions can stop you getting home.

These people we know also think the country is dirty and run down, shabby. When told about the false shop fronts they laughed in disbelief, but they do watch the online media, so know what's happening here.

So, if tourists don't want to come to Britain and businesses choose not to come here and donate large sums in taxation, from where does the government think it's going to generate income to fund the lifestyles of the workshy?

The public sector ostriches have got to look reality in the eye and see how, for example, Abu Dhabi managed to change sand into an welcoming oasis - and realise that the latest 13 years of self-indulgent misrule have merely built on, and enhanced, what was started 40 years ago by Messrs Wilson and Callaghan.

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