Syria: a costly gesture?
I’ve never wanted to be an MP. Don’t get me wrong, I have huge respect for people who put themselves through the mill in order to become our representatives in Westminster.
It’s just that I’ve spent enough time in council chambers to know that you can never please even some of the people let alone most of them. The Commons is also one of those places where people talk a lot more about the respect agenda than actually practice it.
In that context, I’d say last week’s marathon debate over the bombing of Syria was remarkable in that it showed Parliament finally displaying a maturity all too often lacking during the yah-boo stuff we get during Prime Minister’s questions.
I felt the majority of speeches were made with conviction. There were a few flaws in both sets of respective arguments. Most of the calls in favour of military intervention seemed to focus on achieving western solidarity regardless of its effectiveness.
Maybe I’m also bit cynical but I felt that the applause that broke out following Hilary Benn’s speech was more an attempt to embarrass the Labour leader than a spontaneous break with convention.
I’m told some MPs were in tears following the vote. I know of others who feel relieved that they can look their French counterparts in the face. There are more regrets I think than recriminations.
Perhaps the most telling comment came in a blog by Birmingham MP Jess Phillips who wrote that anyone who voted either way with absolute certainty was voting for the wrong reasons.
The decision to extend bombing will result in further human cost both in Syria and here. My hope is that this has not been an exercise in gesture politics at its most futile and most dangerous.
‘Renewable’ will never mean ‘cheap’
I’ve tried to stay as objective as possible on the subject of the tidal lagoon – not always with great success, I admit.
I can understand why the project has its share of cheerleaders and sceptics. The geek in me is attracted by the new technology yet my public affairs head is very conscious of a remorseless campaign to win over hearts and minds.
A recently announced delay caused by wrangling between government and the company over prices was probably to be expected, I suppose.
It’s an inconvenient truth, to borrow a phrase from Al Gore, but there is nothing cheap about renewable energy generation – other than the wind, waves and sunlight they harness.
Innovation always comes with a price tag. Commodities are only ‘affordable’ when they become disposable or consumer demand falls away.
As discussions at the climate conference in Paris have recently highlighted, we live in an energy-hungry world. Sustainability is an expensive concept, especially when fossil fuels are falling in price.
So is the cost of clean, green energy actually worth it?
I guess you will find your answer in the smog-laden cities of Beijing and Mumbai. Or maybe in Oklahoma where earthquakes have increased dramatically since fracking began in earnest.
Not exactly a tough choice, is it?
No-one can dispute the huge improvement over the years to what planners call the “eastern approach” to Swansea.
This came across during an advance peek presentation of joint plans aimed at transforming Fabian Way from the Tawe to the Amazon roundabout into an ‘Innovation Corridor’.
I’m impressed by the proposal to make Langdon Road a safer and more sensible linkage between SA1 and the new Swansea University campus.
A lot of thought has gone into getting the balance right between residential and commercial development. Plans to enhance the historical Tennant Canal are also welcome.
The proposals, currently out to consultation, are another example of joint working between Swansea and Neath Port Talbot councils. They also represent the kind of coherent approach which the eastern end of the docklands development badly needs.
For me however, the priority should be redevelopment of the old AWCO (Aluminium Wire & Cable) site in Port Tennant – and the sooner the better.
Court charges scrapped
I got all agitated a few weeks back about how new rules were compelling people to plead guilty in UK courts rather than face massive additional costs.
Since April, people convicted in England and Wales have had to pay a charge of up to £1,200 towards the cost of their case. The charge is on top of fines, compensation orders and defendants' own legal charges. It is also higher for those convicted after pleading not guilty.
Last week, and following protests from MPs, lawyers, judges and magistrates, Justice Secretary Michael Gove has announced the charges are to be scrapped from 24 December. Result!