Category Archives: Politics

Westminster Skeptics: The Revolution Will Be Digitized

After being in London for nearly a year I’ve finally managed to make it to a Westminster Skeptics in the Pub meeting. I was rewarded with an entertaining and thought-provoking talk by crusading journalist Heather Brooke. Based on her new book it focused on journalism in the digital age with examples from the MPs expenses scandal and the on-going saga of WikiLeaks. The spirited Q&A that followed brought up a whole load of issues.

The key things that jumped out at me (in no particular order):

If we believe as a society that journalism is important for holding the powers that be to account, how are we going to pay for it? I have to say that I occasionally feel guilty about not subscribing to a daily newspaper, but then I remember that I really don’t want to pay for sports reporters and alternative health correspondents. What’s worse is that I’m an absolute news junky, so how does a news organisation turn someone like me into a customer? I have no answers here.

Something that came up a few times was the idea of journalists as filterers and synthesisers of information. The way way this was being described made me think of Librarians. This isn’t an insult, as a former denizen of academia I have had occasional dealings with real librarians; like Dragons they are of fearsome aspect, capable of deep magic and to be treated with the utmost respect. My gut feeling is that the real difference between a Librarian/Curator and a Journalist is narrative.

The issue of releasing redacted vs complete source material was circled around a few times. The whole business of redacted material bothers me quite a lot. Back when I had peripheral involvement in some medical data projects the topic of anonymisation of patient data was discussed quite a lot. If you anonymise clinical data properly you are allowed to store it for research purposes on networks that don’t meet the same security standards as the clinical network. The reason I mention this is that some research has been done on how much anonymous data you need before you can start identifying individuals. As I recall it needs rather less data that most people suppose. This makes makes the appropriate redaction of source material a difficult process. I’ll have to see if I can track down the papers I dimly remember on this subjects.

Which sadly brings us to the final question of the evening. Reading a book in an hour standing up in Waterstones and not buying it is not an indication of your intellectual prowess it’s an indication that you are an arse. Also, if you are going to insult the speaker please try to articulate an actual question. Accusations of hypocrisy, and mentioning that Julian Assange tried to kiss the speaker do not a cogent argument make.

Right, it’s a school night. I must be off. Looking forward very much to the next Westminster Skeptics.

This post brought to you by beer.

#edited for spelling and links

Health, Evidence and Economics

I was going to write a post about Fukushima today, but instead I ended up having a discussion about Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) and it’s intersection with free-market economics. This was precipated by Anne-Marie Cunningham sharing a couple of papers about EBM and the values implicit in it’s use. These are both from the ’90s, but should be read by anyone with an interest in the roots of the current round of NHS reforms.

Links to both the papers can be found in my G+ post on the issue.

With that I’ll leave you with a quote from Florence Nightingale: ‘I need not remind you that what we get into scrapes for is not for saying what nobody believes and everybody says but for saying what everybody believes and nobody says”.

Intelligence² Nuclear Debate – It’s Got To Be Nuclear

I attended the recent Intelligence² debate – It’s Got To Be Nuclear – held at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington. You can listen to the full audio of the debate and subsequent Q&A session at the link above.

The format was setup for yet another pointless debate between advocates for Nuclear and those for Renewables. I’ll get really excited on the day the hold the debate entitled “Clean Coal: Naive Optimism or Marketing Scam”. Even a poorly framed debate can produce some interesting points so I went along anyway.

After Tony Curzon Price had finished up the introductions, proceedings were opened with a statement by Mark Lynas. You can read the whole thing on Mark’s site. The basic thrust of his argument was that the risks of nuclear accidents have been largely over-stated and not put into context with the risks of other energy sources. He also made the point that this shouldn’t be a choice between renewables and nuclear. We will need both if we are to successfully tackle climate change.

Next up was Craig Bennett from Friends of the Earth. He started off by claiming that pro-nuclear advocates frame the debate as being a choice between nuclear power or climate change. Bennett then brought forth a large stack of reports that he claimed proved that we don’t need nuclear to meet our climate change goals and proceeded to drop them one after the other onto the bench as a rhetorical flourish. The problems of intermittency were glossed over with assertion that smart grids would solve everything (apparently by using electric cars as grid storage). He conflated fuel storage for conventional power sources with energy storage for dealing with renewable intermittency. To continue in the vein he asserted that energy efficiency could make up a big part of our energy production. Bennett then moved on from the “we don’t need nuclear” part of his argument to “nuclear is bad”. Apparently nuclear diverts attention and resources away from renewables and energy efficiency. Exactly how this happens wasn’t clear. He also made some jingoistic assertions about nuclear and the need for imports. I will confess I must have missed the burgeoning indigenous solar panel and wind turbine manufacturing industry. To round things up Bennet characterised nuclear as “old-fashioned” technology and linked it to nuclear weapons proliferation. In this entire section the only thing he said that struck me as plausible was the claim that the costs of nuclear power have not come down in 50 years.

The pro-nuclear response was given by Malcolm Grimston a visiting researcher at Imperial College. Grimston spent most of his time directly rebutting Bennett’s statement. He drove home the point that most of the growth in energy demand will be in the developing world where energy efficiency won’t make much of a difference. He also pointed out that 7/8ths of the world’s traded energy is from fossil fuels. Any sensible policy needs to deal with how to remove that.
Grimston also took on Bennett’s assertions about the intermittancy of wind. He pointed out that it is not unusual to see week long periods in the UK where wind production is below 1% because of large-scale weather patterns. This is what is meant by intermittancy, there are times when for external reasons an entire energy source will be unavailable. On thus subject of efficiency Grimston pointed out that energy production has massively increased in efficiency over the course of the 20th century and hadn’t resulted in a decrease in fuel use. He mentioned that the explanation for this was Jevons Paradox.
Commenting on the safety aspects of Fukushima, he mentioned that all the nuclear plants newer than Daiichi units 1-3 had survived both the earthquake and tsunami intact.

The final statement was made by Tom Burke of E3G who, it later turned out, used to share an office with Malcolm Grimston at Imperial. Burke followed Bennett’s lead by characterising the pro-nuclear argument as nuclear or nothing. Despite Lynas having started out by explicitly stating that we need both nuclear and renewables. He followed this up by asserting that the majority of environmentalist are anti-nuclear and they can’t all be wrong. Which is the straightest example of argumentum ad populum I’ve heard in a while.
This brings us to the saddest spectacle of the evening in which Tom Burke shouted at Mark Lynas for having been mean to him in an LA Times article. During this display Burke also accused Lynas of not being a real environmentalist as he hadn’t ever worked for a real environmental group. Burke seemed surprised when this didn’t go over well with the audience.
He moved onto safer ground citing a £200 billion cleanup cost for Fukushima and linking nuclear power with nuclear weapons proliferation. Asserting that if a country has no civilian nuclear facilities it is very easy to tell if they are developing the bomb. Burke also made an argument that Nuclear couldn’t be built fast enough to meet our needs. He asserted that 50GW of wind had been built globally last year against 1GW of nuclear. He also cited the need to build 260 nuclear plants over the next 20 years just to replace the plants currently at the end of their service lives.

Which brings us to the Q&A session.

Things started off with a strident anti-nuclear activist who would clearly have rather been on the panel than in the audience. Despite protesting that she would be concise she went on and on about a study linking nuclear power-plants to childhood leukaemia. This is the study she was referencing. The authors themselves say that the link is unlikely to be caused by radiation.

Another person pointed out that renewables only get built because of the available subsidies.

A question was asked about whether Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) should be pursued.

Tom Burke replied that nuclear receives much greater subsidies than renewables. He was also of the opinion that energy generation is so important that governments should be subsidising methods they prefer.

Mark Lynas was of the opinion that no large scale CCS had yet been shown to work and that unlike nuclear waste CO2 has no half-life so it must be stored forever. That being said he was also of the opinion that if it could be shown to work it might still be a good idea in the short term. At this point Lynas asked Bennett if it was true that Friends of the Earth (FoE) supported research into Thorium reactors.

Bennett replied that this was true and that FoE supported research into a lot of technologies that are a long way off like Fusion. This makes it sound like FoE only suppport nuclear technologies if it believes they won’t be deployed soon enough to cause it ideological problems with it’s supporters. However I may be reading more into his reply than was actually there.
Bennett also supported CCS. He said that we were going to need it to deal with the very large amount of coal-fired power stations in China.

A question was asked about the CO2 impact of Uranium mining.

The venerable Mayer Hillman asked a question about the peak CO2 concentration in the atmosphere in a fully nuclear world.
A student asked about the impact of water usage by nuclear plants especially where water resources are becoming constrained.

Mark Lynas in response to Mayer Hillman conceded that nuclear was not enough to reach a safe level of CO2.

Another questioner made an interesting assertion as to the negative economic and social consequences of a centralised power system. I think his case was that this made nuclear bad since it is more centralised. In the short time he had he was not able to expand on this thought.

The last question came from a Sustainable Development student who asked about how we should get investment made into into both nuclear and renewables. Her point was that this is difficult since markets are not rational and both sides of the debate are demonising each other.

The final answer came from Bennett in response to Lynas. Bennett admitted that FoE was broadly in support of the shutting down of 7 nuclear reactors by the German government despite the large amounts of extra CO2 it would generate.

I honestly felt that the questions were far more interesting than most of the answers. The problem with debates is that they mostly aren’t conducive to a real investigation of the issues and can very easily descend into sound-bite tennis. There were some interesting points made on both sides, but I felt that Burke and Bennett had more tendency to resort to rhetorical tactics rather than attempt a proper explanation of the position. Which of course doesn’t mean that they are wrong it just means I found them less convincing.

A vote on the motion was taken before and after the debate.

Position Before After
For 128 165
Against 56 63
Undecided 68 15

Which looks to me like no-one who entered the room with a position changed their mind.

Intelligence² Debate – It’s Got To Be Nuclear – Initial Thoughts

I’ve just got back from the debate held by Intelligence² at the Royal Geographical Society in South Kensington.

The motion was simply – It’s got to be nuclear – although both sides agreed that the pro-nuclear camp were clear that they wanted both nuclear and renewables.

The pro arguments were pretty standard
* climate change is such a threat that we need all the tools available
* nuclear is not the threat it has been made out to be
* nuclear is the only power source that can make a dent in coal
* renewables (wind,wave,solar,tidal) can’t do base load

And the anti arguments boiled down to a few you may well have heard before

* nuclear is too expensive
* we can make do with efficiency and renewables
* nuclear vs renewables is a zero-zum game

I found both Mark Lynas and Malcolm Grimston to be entertaining and cogent. I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing Grimston before and was very impressed with his performance. He comes across as being both in command of the facts and genuinely likeable.

The part of the debate the will doubtless gain the most attention is Tom Burke’s shouty, hissy fit at Mark Lynas. In my experience accusing your opponents of being mean to you is never a good tactic. The boos from the audience would suggest that I’m not the only one that felt that.

I am in need of both food and sleep so I’ll leave you with the final vote:
For : 165
Against : 63
Undecided : 15

I’ll write us something more substantive tomorrow when I’ve had time to reflect on the actual arguments that were made rather than the superficialities.

More information at:

TAM London Day One

The Amazing Meeting London (TAMLondon) kicked off today. My day started off at the back of a queue outside the Mermaid Theater in Blackfriars. Things started off badly for me as I spent most of my queuing time on my trusty Nokia E71 logged into Merlin removing a recalcitrant compute node from the job scheduling system.

All of TAM takes place in the main auditorium of the Mermaid which comfortably seats all ~600 delegates. First up on stage was Brian Cox to talk about the Large Hadron Collider and the scientific questions it is designed to answer. Although what his talk was really about was politician’s tin ear for the fundamental goals of basic science. This lead to a brief (but thoroughly deserved) shoeing for the shambolic STFC. Whenever I listen to Brian Cox I feel like I understand particle physics. This feeling usual lasts as long as it takes me to forget what a lepton is (i.e not very long).

Jon Ronson gave an entertaining account of his adventure at Bohemian Grove and some anecdotes about the people in his book The Men Who Stare at Goats. If you have read his books and seen his documentaries you probably know most of this already. This was lots of fun, but could have done with more David Icke reptile anecdotes.

Simon Singh rounded off the morning session with an update on his progress in the libel suit that the British Chiropracters Association brought against him. He outlined the gross unfairness of the English Libel system pointing out that not only is the burden of proof on the defendant, but it is 140 times more expensive to defend a libel suit in England that it is in most of the rest of Europe. The rapturous reception Singh recieved from the TAMLondon crowd shows that many skeptics share his disgust with English Libel law. As an added bonus superstar legal-blogger Jack Of Kent spoke from the audience.

Lunch was nice and I took the opportunity to wander around St Pauls. I lived in London for six and half years and managed never to visit it.

The glamorous Ariane Sherine lead off the afternoon session with a behind the scenes look at the Atheist Bus Campaign. This might have been usefully subtitled ‘Accidental Atheist Activism’. This section brought up the usual skeptics vs atheists debate which passed without rancor.
Ben Goldacre’s barnstorming presentation on the failures of science journalism was the highlight of the day for me. In particular Goldacre’s Law: ‘There is no piece of fuckwittery so stupid that I can’t find at least one Doctor or PhD to defend it to the death’. It almost goes without saying that Goldacre holds the current TAMLondon record for most profanities in a single presentation. This Brigstockian performance was punctuated by vehement applause from the audience on several occasions.

As a special treat James Randi joined us by skype. While I was disappointed that Randi couldn’t be here in person I’m glad he is listening to his physicians. Hearing Randi reminisce about the highlights of his career was a pleasure.

Drawing proceedings to a close Phil Plait presented Simon Singh with a JREF award in recognition of his on-going legal battle with the BCA.

Now that day one is at an end I must mention Richard Wiseman’s MC’ing, which has been a delight throughout. He is a genuinely funny stage presence and I was nearly in tears with laughter during his ‘teatowel into chicken’ trick.

TAMLondon day one has been more fun a barrel full of monkeys. My only wish is that tomorrow there will be a copy of ’59 seconds’ left so that I can purchase it and read it on the train back to Cardiff.

Election Predictions

After perusing ukpollingreport it looks to me like the 4th seat in the Welsh region will be a straight fight between the Liberal Democrats and UKIP. Given that my dislike of xenophobes is stronger than my dislike of anti-nuclear policies it looks like I’ll be voting LibDem tomorrow.

I think the seats will go down like this in Wales:

  1. Conservative
  2. Labour
  3. Plaid Cymru
  4. UKIP

In descending order of their share of the vote. Although obviously I hope that the 4th seat doesn’t go to UKIP.

A Tour of the Minor Parties 6 – UK Independence Party

I found Nigel Farage’s performance on Question Time last week to be horrifyingly entertaining. Personally, I can’t get past the idea that UKIP were specifically formulated to appeal to Daily Mail readers.

Web Presence

I’ll give this one a big “meh”. Distinctly functional, but underwhelming. In contrast the Welsh UKIP site is nearly as horrid as the SLP’s was.

I found the single most annoying part of the site was that all their detailed policy proposals were in the form of PDFs. Bad on so many levels. Dear UKIP stop doing this now.

Another failing is the almost complete lack of any personal presence by their candidates. I could find out who the candidates are, but very little about them.


UKIP provide a handy summary from which I shall select an unrepresentative sample.

UKIP will leave the political EU and trade globally and freely.

You’ll trade “freely”? Really? I’m not sure that word means what you think it means.

We will freeze immigration for five years…

I thought so. You see this free trade thing, it involves the free movement of labour as well as goods. You can’t be for free trade and against immigration, it doesn’t make sense.

The UK would withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights

Who needs those pesky Human Rights?

We will radically reform the working of the NHS with an Insurance Fund, whilst upholding the ‘free at the point of care’ principles.

I’d have to see the details of this but it doesn’t sound immediately batty. However, I would suggest that any healthcare system that is free at the point of delivery is going to be expensive.

We will take 4.5 million people out of tax with a simple Flat Tax (with National Insurance) starting at £10,000. We will scrap Inheritance Tax, not just reform it and cut corporation taxes.

The regressive nature of a flat tax aside; how are you going to afford an NHS free at the point of delivery with all this tax-cutting?

All joking aside the thing I dislike the most about these policies is their strident, and faintly racist, advocacy of closed borders. I don’t want to live in a world were I can’t choose to go and live and work in another country. The world is almost entirely better off for immigration. To take a trivial example the NHS (which UKIP is apparently a fan of) would fall apart without the thousands of foreign doctors and nurses it employs. Should we deport all of them. I mean some of them aren’t even white.

European Policies

Like a lot of the anti-european parties UKIP does a good job of articulating it’s specific policies for the European election.

The only people who should decide who can come to live, work and settle in Britain should be the British people themselves.

Yes, I think you made this point earlier. It’s just as tiresome now.

…we should not be focussing on the insular regional trading blocs, but opening our arms to trade with the rest of the world, starting with the Commonwealth.

I wasn’t aware of any huge barriers to trade with Australia and New Zealand, other than them being on the opposite side of the planet. While Europe is right next door.

Not Mental

I choose to characterise them as eccentric, possibly dangerously so.


Never in a million years would I vote for this bunch of xenophobic, mercantilists.

As an amusing side note, Nigel Farage has recently been lionising the Euroskeptic President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus. Mr Klaus happens to be a real free marketeer of the Austrian school. You can bet he doesn’t agree with UKIP’s economic policies.

A Tour of the Minor Parties 5 – Jury Team

After a lovely sunny weekend break from blogging it’s time to get back to the grindstone and continue my series of posts about the various small parties of the upcoming European elections.

I first became aware of Jury Team when I heard that Esther Rantzen had joined them and was standing as a candidate. Well I have to admit that put me off them from the start. However it did get me to look at their website where I found out that they were founded by former Director General of the Conservative Party, Paul Judge (he claims the name of the party isn’t a joke about his surname); and that independent MP Dr Richard Taylor and former independent MP Martin Bell were also joining. This made them a lot more credible in my eyes. While I have a fondness for ideologues there is something to be said for a party founded by people with a bit of practical political experience.

Web Presence

Pretty good overall. Not as appealing visually as the Green Party website, but featuring the same wholehearted embrace of social media. The local candidates have short sections showing every sign of having been written by the candidates themselves.


This is where we run into a bit of a problem because Jury Team isn’t a political party in the traditional sense. Apart from a basic set of principles every candidate has to sign up to, they don’t have policies as such. Indeed one of Jury Team’s proposals is the abolition of the party whip, so even if they did have policies there would be no guarantee that an individual MP would vote for them.

However I would like to point out item 1 of the candidate agreement.

I agree not to support any policies discriminating on the basis of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religious or other belief.

That already puts them head and shoulders above a number of other parties I could mention.

The party of independents concept has the added complication that in a regional list system like the current election you could be putting an X next to four candidates with radically different ideologies. However for practical purposes they are unlikely to get more than one MEP so I really only need to consider the candidate at the top of the list. Which in this case is Paul Sabanskis. He also has his own site at

The first thing to mention is that the wonderful puts me in pretty close alignment with Mr Sabanskis’s views. In his own words:

Wales needs strong representation within the UK, and within Europe, so that areas can gain access to funding that is designed to help economies transform from being resource-led (e.g. coal / steel) to taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the Internet Age. I especially would like to see greater advantage being taken of environmentally sensitive technology, as this would be a great way of regenerating former mining communities.

While the phrases like “environmentally sensitive” always worry me votematch says that he is pro-nuclear which leads me to believe that he is fairly pragmatic.

Zero tolerance on crime, with harsh punishments for repeat offenders.

Well that sounds pretty illiberal to my ears, but it would depend on what this actually meant in practise. Mainly because we’ve heard zero-tolerance from a number of politicians, none of whom have actually implemented it.

One thing that he says that did make me happy is this:

I have an open mind on most issues and prefer to act based on the facts and evidence.

European Policies

Jury Team have a list of core proposals most of which revolve around reforming the nitty-gritty of Westminster parliamentary procedure. Without wading into the details it seems that they boil down to various fairly sensible ways of increasing parliamentary oversight and pruning back the power of the executive. If this sensibility transferred to the European Parliament then I would consider that to be a good thing.

Mr Sabanskis addresses a couple of European issues himself.

Scrap the CAP which is wasteful.

The CAP in this instance being the Common Agricultural Policy. It is indeed a horrifically wasteful policy so I’m in full agreement with him here.

I believe we should have a proper debate about our role in Europe with facts rather than scaremongering and when promised a referendum, we should have one, not excuses and hair-splitting.

I couldn’t argue with that.

Not Mental

Mr Sabanskis is quite outspoken and has a tendency to resort to “x should be banned”, rather than taking a more nuanced approach to policy. That being said I would hate to conflate strong opinions with being a nutter.

As a whole the Jury Team proposals are almost boringly reasonable.


I like the idea of more independent politicians and have a lot of sympathy with the idea that political parties are kind of a bad idea in and of themselves. The European Parliament could do with more politicians who have signed up to the principles of transparency and oversight.

I might take a punt on Jury Team despite the obvious irony of an anti-corruption party started by a man who lost a Libel case over the allegation of party donation fraud.

Tour of the Minor Parties 4 – Welsh Green Party

I’m not sure I appreciated what a marathon this was going to turn into when I started it. Yesterday’s horrid slog through the rhetoric of the SLP was distinctly unrewarding. I’m hoping for better things from today’s turn: The Welsh Green Party.

Web Presence

Very nicely done. The most engaging and interactive of all the sites I have visited thus far. They have links to all their social media outlets right on the front page. A quick trawl through their Youtube channel turns up one of the best descriptions of how the regional list proportional representation works that I have yet seen. Although I could have done without the “vote for us or the BNP get in” scaremongering. The air-raid sirens where, perhaps, a bit much.

Top of the Welsh list is Jake Griffiths. Who seems to write the news posts for the Welsh Greens news-blog-thing. So at least you can get an idea of how he feels about the issues, and more importantly; how he feels about Welsh issues.

So the greens score well on this front. Their candidates appear to be actual real-life people and they even engage in conversation with people (for example answering comments on their youtube channel).


Green Party policies seem to boil down a few major initiatives.

  1. Tackle climate change by increasing investments in wind and solar. And by simultaneously taking steps to reduce energy demand. For example they want to subsidise insulation for residential properties.
  2. A 20mph suburban speed limit to reduce accidents and allow residents to reclaim their streets.
  3. An increase in affordable housing.

Jake also has some specific things to say regarding Wales.

I have to say that the Greens have done a good job in recent years making their policies distinctive from the main parties and yet bland enough that there is nothing really outrageous to object to. Fortunately for me the have a policy archive which reveals them to be just as wingnutty as ever.

My main objection to the Greens is their fanciful energy policy. While I agree with them that climate change is a real problem I disagree with their prescription for solving it. Solar and Wind are great in that they don’t produce any C02 but you need to put in somewhere above 40% backup to them for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. Now the obvious step forward is to back them up with Nuclear which can provide reliable and CO2 free power, but the Greens are ideologically opposed to Nuclear. The policy document contains the following charming statement:

Green Party scientist Dr Busby has stated the nuclear industry has been responsible for over a million deaths worldwide.

Really, a million? Bear in mind that the WHO reckons that Chernobyl, the worlds worst Nuclear accident, killed around 50 people with epidemiologist projecting a total death toll of 4000. So I’m not sure how we get to one million.

The other strand of their energy policy is reducing demand both by mandating energy efficiency and by some more “inventive” strategies.

peak electricity demand when people switch on electric kettles and cookers at the end of a popular television programme. If there were to be a threat of power cuts because demand was already abnormally high during exceptionally severe winter weather, this could be averted by varying the times of transmission from the different regional broadcasting a caption asking people to switch off
unnecessary lights and appliances.

One should note that this is only an issue because the Greens don’t want to build enough power stations to actually meet the energy needs of the country.

This is doubly troubling because of something called The Jevons Paradox which states that increasing the efficiency with which a commodity is used tends to increase it’s usage. In other words Green Party policies are likely to increase energy consumption while doing little to reduce the CO2 production per unit energy on the supply side of things.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. A carbon tax is the most straight-forward way of approaching climate change.

European Policies

While the Greens are undoubtedly a strong force in Europe they seem short on specifically European policies.

Not Mental

I’m going to give the Greens the benefit of the doubt. I suspect they are just scientifically illiterate rather than crazy.


Being a fan of liberal economics and Nuclear power it was very unlikely that I would find the Greens appealing. Although I have to give them props for their fine web presence and the fact the their local councillors and MEPs are reputed to be hard-working and honest.

We are fast approaching the end of this journey. Tomorrow’s instalment will be the Jury Team and I will mull over whether or not to do the BNP.

A Tour of the Minor Parties 3 – Socialist Labour Party

From one megalomaniacal trade union boss to another. The first thing you see when visiting the site of the Socialist Labour Party (apart from the appalling design) is a big picture of their fearless leader Arthur Scargill.

Now I have to admit that I have a soft spot for the hard left due to being brought up in a fairly left-wing family. Indeed my maternal Grandmother was a card-carrying Communist even going so far as to visit Moscow before the days of Glasnost and Perestroika. So I was raised knowing that the Russians aren’t evil and that you shouldn’t believe everything Uncle Sam tells you.

Web Presence

It appears to be hand-written, and not by somebody who knows what they are doing. Aside from the horrifying design there is no information about any of their candidates (apart from Comrade Scargill) and not a mention of the European elections. You would think that an anti capitalist institution like the SLP would be running on open-source but upon inspecting the site I find:

Server: Microsoft-IIS/6.0
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET

Tut, tut, tut.


They have a lot of policies and many of their policy descriptions go on at great length, liberally sprinkled with possibly spurious statistics. I say possibly spurious because they seem to be labouring under a pathological fear of citing their sources. The only document cited in the entire site is a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which you can’t read unless you drop twenty quid on it.

Phantom sources aside, lets start of on some things I can agree with.

Homosexual partnerships should be recognised, including legally on a par with heterosexual ones. Sexuality should not be a bar to the custody of children, applications for fostering and adoption. Sexuality cannot be a bar to Aids and IVF treatment. When it comes to any aspect of criminal law, homosexual behaviour should be treated exactly the same way as heterosexuality.

Sing it brother. Keep this up and I’ll join you in a rousing rendition of “The Red Flag”.

A written Constitution should embody all individual and collective rights so that Judges would implement and not interpret the Constitution; this, together with a Bill of Rights, would allow a fair democratic system in which people could determine what type of Constitution we should have and then ensure that it is at all times upheld in the interests of us all.

Something else I could get behind.

We can have no higher goal than doing our best to ensure that every baby born into this world is wanted and will be cared for physically and emotionally throughout childhood and into adult life.

So, you’d have to be Ebeneezer Scrooge not to agree with basic premise of “the children are our future”. Further down the page the SLP declare that they are also pro-kitten and very much in favour of fluffy bunny rabbits.

I think at this point we should take it as read that as an economically liberal, free trade kind of chap I’m going to disagree with all of the SLP’s economic policies. However that still leaves a lot of policy ground to cover. The disagreement starts with animal rights.

Vivisection and animal testing should be abolished…..
Animal researchers feed the public lies designed to fool us into thinking that animal experiments are a medical necessity and that they lead to the development of drugs that heal all manner of illness

This only makes sense if you believe that there is a conspiracy amongst all biological scientists. The thing we know about scientists is that they value evidence and truth. If animal testing didn’t work they would stop doing it. What possible motivation could they have otherwise? Are we to believe that all biomedical scientists everywhere are sadists?

The commercial irradiation of many types of food – without our knowledge, let alone our consent – means that a number of foods now last weeks rather than days, but at what cost? What effect does irradiation have on the human body, and how long before we all have to pay the price of the fast-food, get-rich-quick system which now operates in Britain?

To be fair gamma rays are up the capitalist end of the electromagnetic spectrum with their bourgeois short wavelengths and elitist high frequencies.

The development of genetically modified crops is highly dangerous, and is something against which our Party campaigns. Those who try to ‘play God’ with our food, environment and the earth itself threaten disaster for future generations;

At least most Communists had the good grace to also be Atheists and not throw around phrases like “Playing God”. The safety of a GMO depends on what gene you put into it. Rice engineered to express Vitamin E; good. Rice engineered to express cobra venom; bad. It’s really not that complicated.

We can reduce dramatically the ‘greenhouse effect’ if power stations were to use fluidised bed combustion, together with a combined heat and power system. This would not only combat pollution but more than double the energy efficiency of coal-fired power stations.

You shoud note that according to the DOE doubling the efficiency of coal would make it about as green as burning natural gas. i.e not very. If you are serious about climate change you really want want sources of power that produce no Carbon Dioxide.

European Policies

The Socialist Labour Party is totally committed to complete withdrawal from the European Union, or Common Market as it was originally called. That is the only way Britain can begin to regain control of its economy, sovereignty and its political powers.

As I mentioned earlier nowhere on the SLP site do they even mention that the European elections are happening.

Not Mental

On the basis of their environment and animal welfare pages alone I’m going to have to go with mental.


It’s hard to get past the feeling that this is a vanity exercise for Scargill. The donations of the rank and file pay for Arthur to tour the country giving speeches without the worry of ever having to actually run anything. Shockingly I will not be voting for the SLP.