Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Green guns

BAE Systems, the arms firm from over here that makes weapons to kill people over there, is in the news again after the announcement that it intends to develop environmentally-friendly weapons. When I first read this I thought it a marvellous hoax, or some Mark Thomas wheeze. Oh, what sweet satire it would be.

However, truth is more extraordinary than fiction.

I'm sure the folk hit by the lead free bullets which "can harm the environment and pose a risk to people", will be happier knowing that at least they won't get lead poisoning. And those living in war zones will be able to sleep and breathe easier with the "proposed quieter warheads to reduce noise pollution and grenades that produce less smoke".

Of course, it is preferable that any organisation should do it's utmost to reduce and minimise its impact on the environment. But for BAE to try and score some moral and ethical points over it is a measure of extreme cuntitude. It's doubtful BAE's customers will be checking the energy and environment label before buying. A kill efficiency label might be more useful.

weapons label

To fit in with this new cuddly image, perhaps BAE should offer a free return and recycle bag with their weapons?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Don't worry, BAe happy

Robin Cook wrote in his 2003 autobiography, "I never once knew Number 10 to come up with any decision that would be incommoding to British Aerospace."

On the face of it, Swan Hunters' loss of the Lyme Bay to BAe in July after alleged overrun of nearly £309 million and two years late, seems reasonable (see Curly's Corner Shop for a bit of background). This is despite the landing ship project "being largely managed and supervised by 20 BAE Systems staff on-site in Newcastle" in it's last years. Obviously an inquiry is needed to clear matters up.

However, the MoD is not so punitive when it comes to Britain's favourite arms manufacturer.

The National Audit Office has reported that the contract for the new Nimrod MRA4 aircraft is £966m over cost and nearly a decade late. This is despite the fact that the Nimrods will not be new, but refurbished bodies with new wings, engines and systems. The original contract for 21 planes should have been completed in 2003. However, after 'restructuring' of the project in 2003, the number of planes went down to 18 and now only 12 planes will be renewed, and delivery is not expected until 2010 at the earliest.

The MoD's punishment for BAe's poor performance? Award the arms company with a £65m contract to maintain the current aging Nimrod fleet until the 'new' ones are finally ready.

Why does BAe get such preferential treatment?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

We need goals, not gas

Conservative Party leader David Cameron's recent announcement of his support for the Climate Change Bill, shows that Labour has a long way to go both nationally and locally to catch up in the 'carbon credibility' stakes.

The Climate Change Bill, which would oblige the government to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 3 per cent each year, would form the basis of a framework of policies to reduce greenhouse emissions. Whilst Mr Cameron and Friends of the Earth have called for the Bill's entry into the forthcoming Queen's Speech, the government (and our South Shields MP David Miliband) has so far failed to comment on it, despite the Bill enjoying the support of 380 MPs across the house.

Equally alarming is that South Tyneside Council's Labour cabinet has chosen to adopt a policy which aims for a reduction in its carbon emissions of only 5 per cent over 5 years. The target, set out in the Council's Carbon Management Strategy and Action Plan, is well below what other councils have already achieved.

I suppose a nice low target is easy to achieve, and once met can show the voters just how 'great' the Council is at dealing with climate change.

In typical spin-tastic style, the South Tyneside council leader Councillor Paul Waggott, whose cabinet rubber stamped the pathetic Carbon Management Strategy and Action Plan, has tried to claw back some credibility with a feeble claim that the council already uses a (single) "council vehicle powered by electricity." This is hardly ground breaking technology, which can be attested by the many milkmen in the area who have used electric floats for years.

Of course, South Tyneside Council has made significant inroads into reducing it's greenhouse emissions, with the Middlefields wind turbine and the Temple Park centre energy savings, but to achieve real reductions there needs to be a realistic and challenging target to aim for. The planet doesn't have time for political apathy.

We need big cuts in carbon dioxide. Correspondingly, we need big targets.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Digging the dirt

It seems that the East Boldon and Cleadon by-election is reaching fever pitch with the local Labour candidate desperate to rubbish political opponents. Lewis Atkinson, the new Labour 'strong local voice' candidate, has done little more than use his voice to criticise Conservative councillor David Potts (who isn't actually standing) and Lib Dem / Independent (dependent on which day of the week it seems) Alan Mordain.

Mr Atkinson is busy collecting a petition which demands an apology from the Conservatives over the recent expenses shenanigans. He says on his blog that "This is not a party-political issue." Who is he kidding? He's already trying to score political points with it, and all the signatories would make useful canvassing targets. The giveaway phrase on his petition is, "It may be used by me or the Labour Party to contact you."

Apart from the negative electioneering, I wondered, where have I heard the 'strong local voice' line before? Then it came to me, the last local election. Chris Haine of South Tyneside Green Party used it in a piece back in April when he commended Bryan Atkinson's fight to stop the second Tyne road tunnel. Although the 'strong local voice' concept is not a new one in politics, it has long formed one of the core values of the Green Party and had a place in the Party's national local election strategy in May.

So who is really going to be a strong local voice?