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Friday 2 February 2018

Brexit - the fork in the road

The fork in the road ahead is within sight. And now is when the Brexit saboteurs go into overdrive, and we get distractions such as that 'leaked' Treasury report. It appears that Treasury civil servants, without ministerial approval, authored an economic forecast document of unremitting gloom which was then somehow leaked. There is speculation in the press that a fifth column of Brexit saboteurs deep within government is throwing everything into the battle to secure membership of the Customs Union and possibly Single Market. Only this is simply not possible without abandoning Brexit. 

So, adopting the responsible position of government, we deny absolutely any wrong doing on the part of the civil service, which maintains a strict political impartiality that had earned it the finest reputation in the world. Then we'll find the bastards in the Treasury responsible and post them to our mission in Chechnia.  

This is just a distraction from the decision that the cabinet - including Hammond - must now agree. Which fork to take. AEP in the Telegraph is clear. Germany is refusing the UK even the pretence of a reasonable deal; they're taking the piss. The long term interests of the UK will not be served by accepting a humiliating deal that destroys our remaining economic advantages. We need to take the path of a clean Brexit, and WTO rules.

Sure, it will cause pain, confusion and chaos in the short term, but we will emerge strong and the EU will lose. And if Mrs May is not woman enough to take the plunge, then the parliamentary party will defenestrate both her and Hammond within a few weeks.

Now it's getting interesting.

Thursday 1 February 2018

Postscript: Crapita and Smart Meters

Just a swift PS to the post below; it turns out that the whole infrastructure of smart gas and electric meters (new generation of which will use a common comms hub in each house that works with all power and gas suppliers plus 'enabled' appliances ..) is being rolled out by DCC Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Crapita plc, now reportedly approaching a Carillion crisis. Hey ho.

There are two WAN options - one for South and Central UK and one for the North, based on radio transmission. And the documentation is interesting, confirming exactly the configuration of metallic shielding / faraday cage that will block the meters (well done, Steve) for anyone interested. 

And from a skim through the technical docs, they're building in a lot of room for expanded functionality for those 'Comms hubs' - including an option for TCP/IP via packets carried on the hard power lines themselves, making wireless / radio HANs and WANs redundant.

Wednesday 31 January 2018

Smart meters will hurt the just coping

The Mail carries a story today that reveals the electricity companies are recruiting charity muggers - chuggers - to doorstep householders and pressurise them into having smart meters fitted. 

I've written before about the risks posed by smart meters - chiefly the ability to remotely connect / disconnect the supply. A year ago, during yet another supply shortfall scare, the power companies let it slip that they needed smart meters to allow 'load management' - i.e. to impose rolling blackouts when demand exceeds supply, but to avoid disconnecting hospitals or households with dialysis machines. In a Ratner moment, they also let slip that wealthy customers who pay extra for their power could be exempt from 'load management' disconnections. Which is a useful reminder of the social effects of smart meters. 

For the wealthy and comfortably off, smart meters pose few problems except alerting hacker burglars of times when the house is empty. No sooner have they left for a weekend in their Welsh cottage than burglars are alerted that the kettle and toaster haven't been used and bosh! that's the Philip Stark spiraliser gone.   

For the poor, smart meters will add nothing to their misery. They're not allowed credit. They are already on smartkey supplies and pay pound-by-pound in advance for their power. At a rate significantly higher than the rest of us. If you've never stood behind some poor woman in the queue at the co-op as she empties copper coins on the counter to get another £3 on her key and not inwardly wept you have no soul. 

No. It's the borderline strugglers, the financial jugglers, the overdraft army who will really feel the impact of smart meters. They will already have switched from a fixed monthly direct debit (that always gives the power company a balance of around £1,000 of one's money) to payment on actual readings. By massaging-down their self-readings they can give themselves some wiggle room until the annual compulsory reading by the energy firm - and even then can delay the catch-up reading by a week or so. Then they can wait to 'pay on red' and even then can wait until the 'notice of intended disconnection' arrives. All of which currently allows them to juggle enough to keep a clean credit record and avoid disconnection. But not with smart meters. 

No wonder the power companies are so keen for smart meters. No more meter readers, and above all no more need for magistrate's warrants to break into a dwelling house to disconnect the supply. Just wait seven days after the red bill and -flic!- power disconnected. This will even give them the chance to charge, say, another £100 to -flic!- the power back on, so trebles all round.

Monday 29 January 2018

Lords abolition - options

If it's not clear now, it will become astoundingly clear to the nation over the next few weeks that we must abolish the Lords in the form in which it is now constituted. The House has been so grossly polluted with thieves, peculators, placemen, barrators, perjurers and all the crooked corrupt filth and refuse from the political class that the scum of their crookedness has irredeemably befouled those who by honour, virtue and service are really deserving of elevation to the peerage. As it is practically impossible to cull the filth, we must seek more radical solutions.

There are three options for an upper house; elected, appointed or mixed. The problem with an elected upper house is that we create a rival to the Commons with democratic legitimacy - less easy to uphold the supremacy of the people, particularly if upper house members are not elected for life. Appointed runs into the familiar problems of opening an honourable system to the faecal touch of the political hand, unless appointments and all influence over them is removed from politicians. 

I have already suggested that we rescue our honours system from political debasement by banning politicians from anything above BEM. In return, we should create a new, special order for political service limited to say 100 members appointed for life with annual nominations to any vacancies by the sitting prime minister, but with no rights for the order to sit in an upper chamber. They would get colourful cod-mediaeval robes, a glittery breast star, post-nominals and a church service once a year with the sovereign. Candidates should be limited to Privy Councillors, to restrain the basest instincts of prime ministers to pay back big favours. 

The much needed renovation of the palace of Westminster offers a useful opportunity to start the change. While works take place at the east end, the Commons should move into the Lords chamber and take over their offices and canteens. The Lords can go to the Excel exhibition centre in Docklands, fitted out as a chamber in that ghastly EU semi-circular configuration as a lesson in how we should never adopt this style for the Commons. 

It's high time we bit the bullet on this. The Lords must go.
Would you really want to shake Lord Rennard's hand? Without gloves?