Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Lord Howell solution

So an unelected Tory MP suggested that, while fracking would obviously be awful (I mean, absolutely ghastly, old boy) in nice parts of England, it would be fine in the North East because the whole region is a post-industrial wasteland inhabited by ugly inbred morons. That's what he really thinks. He later apologised, but that's just marzipan - his first remarks reveal his real thoughts, the apology reflected the fact that there's at least one Tory marginal in the North East.

Lord Howell is a piece of work. He's a former Thatcher minister, he's George Osborne's father-in-law, and he went to Eton and Oxford. He's a classic example of a posh bloke who started climbing the power ladder about three rungs from the top and still failed to amount to much. Another upper-class mediocrity who - because he's gone through life pretty much getting everything that matters his own way - thinks of himself as quite the clever chap. Whereas in fact he's a stupid bastard, but one so well-connected that his stupid bastardy can't do him much harm. Like Boris, Cameron, and the rest of them.

Well, so what? Big deal. The Tory mask slips so often these days that anyone who doubts they are a party of amoral chancers who worship money and power just isn't paying attention. Cameron's desperate attempts to whitewash the essential posh-boy shittiness of the Tory brand isn't working well, partly because he's a crap leader and partly because the right-wing press keeps revealing the deep-seating homophobia, racism, and misogyny that have long characterised the Tory brand. No surprises there.

However, Lord Howell's brilliant suggestion does raise another issue. Gas fracking is all very well, but we need some kind of non-fossil fuel energy source for the long-term future. Despite massive bungling in high places nuclear power is still an option, not least because it can produce lots of lovely electricity round the clock. Sure, there are risks of accidents and contamination and a nuclear plant nearby isn't going to do property values any good. But let's take a dispassionate look at the harsh economic realities right-wingers love to talk about.

Nuclear power is needed most in the South of England. London and its environs need more and more power, and nuclear energy is the best way to ensure that power is provided. Since a lot of power is lost in transmission through the grid it makes no sense to build a power station in Sellafield to cater to Southwark. No, nuclear plants in the South East would be the most efficient option. So where should they be built?

First, choose an area of moral desolation. Lord Howell and those like him went to Eton, Oxford, and then into the City. Nuclear plants in those areas would not threaten many decent human beings, and in fact an accident might well increase the basic decency of the nation. As a bonus, the chilling effect on property prices across the entire South East would be a tremendous boon for young couples seeking a first home. Oh, and if accidents became fairly common enough it might deter all those economic migrants Londoners seem to hate so much. It's a bargain bucket of radioactive win!

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