I mentioned in my last post how the lib dems seem so desperate to hang in there, that they’ll say anything, however its probably worse than I thought, as an interview with the BBC’s Today programme with Nick Clegg reveals. It would seem that not only is he prepared to sacrifice the parties long standing position on the EU, but also he would end renewable subsidies to onshore wind energy.
Needless too say this is at odds with the very manifesto the party published a few weeks ago, which included commitments to maintaining the UK in the EU and fighting climate change via renewables expansion. He’s even prepared to back Trident now!
To deal with renewables first, wind energy is the UK’s largest, cheapest and fastest growing source of renewable energy, how in blue blazes do they expect to match these commitments while ending wind energy subsidies? Now I’m sure they’ll point to subsidy’s to offshore wind and solar. However these energy sources are more expensive at present with a slower growth rate. While prices are falling yes, we’re gambling that this trend will continue, and the IPCC would say we ran out of time to do that along time ago. And in any event the Tories (with Lib dem support) cut solar subsidies…three times!
The danger with these subsidy cuts is the signal it sends to industry. And the signal that I’m hearing from those in the renewables business is that, so long as the Tories are in power, the bulk of the UK energy market is a forbidden lawn they are not allowed to thread on. The Tories plan to hand this to their special interest allies in the Fossil fuels and nuclear industries. And as I’ve pointed out recently in my energy blog, the subsidy rates to nuclear exceed those given to renewables and there is a big question as to how much energy is available from Shale gas.
And keep in mind here, were not just talking about saving a few polar bears. As I discussed in a recent post on my energy blog, the UK energy grid has seen a significant run down in capacity recently, largely due to a lack of any sort of coherent energy policy. Despite the strong growth in renewables (which is about the only sector that’s adding new capacity) there is a serious risk of us holding the next election by candlelight, unless something is done quickly to sort out this mess out. However, nuclear is too slow to build and expensive, Shale gas won’t deliver the capacity required (and will take time to deploy) and committing to large scale energy imports is not exactly wise given events in Ukraine.
As for Europe, well as I discussed recently, the Tory plans that Nick Clegg now seems to endorse, are incoherent and unworkable. The consequences of an EU vote are likely to be several years of economic uncertainty. And if the UK actually does leave a substantial hit in GDP (up to 14%, although the LSE estimate is more in the range of 2.5-10%), with countless job losses and people losing their homes, savings and pensions. How can any party remotely committed to fiscal responsibility endorse such a policy is beyond me.
Consider my position as a lecturer. A lot of research funding comes from Europe, as do quite a few of our students and research staff. We lose access to that, or have to spend the next two years worrying that we might, and its going to cut things off at the knee’s. And keep in mind its the very big and more prestigious uni’s who will really feel the pinch as they are the most vulnerable to a cut in EU funds. We’ll be literally locking the doors on labs the day after an EU vote and sacking whole departments. Some uni’s might even collapse into bankruptcy, with a knock on effect for the local economy.
And many UK uni’s are now the hub for a large number of high tech SME start up’s in emerging technologies. These firms are here precisely because the UK is an English speaking country with strong well funded uni’s, with a diverse and talented workforce (recruited from around the world thanks to open borders), with links to other EU institutes and access to EU funds. Cut that off, or even threatened to do so, and all of these firms either go bust, or move to another country. Leaving the EU thus means burning an entire generation of investors who will avoid the UK like the plague afterwards. And for the UK HEI sector and students it will amount to a double betrayal by the lib dems.
Yet the lib dems seem quite happy to do this. You may ask why. Well it probably has something to do with the fact that Nick Clegg was looking at losing his seat until stories emerged of Tory voters coming to his rescue. Clearly, this sudden lurch to the right is intended to shore up support for Clegg and save his hide, even if he has to throw everything his party stands for under the bus first.
At the last election the lib dems at least waited until polls closed before reneging on their promises, now they seem to plan on doing so before people have even voted. I would argue that it is now incorrect to see the lib dems as a party of the left anymore, nor a liberal party. They have clearly lost the plot, gone over to the dark side and lurched to the right…as too seems to have the Independent who is now backing a Tory government (last time I buy their paper!).
My granny used to be a lib dem supporter and I can tell you if she was still alive she’d be disgusted with the party now. So I don’t care who you vote for, so long as its not the lib dems.