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Archives for July 2010

Balls' blogs and Ed's tweets reveal the heat of Labour leadership campaign

Len Tingle | 12:13 UK time, Monday, 26 July 2010

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Ed Miliband

On Saturday morning Shadow Energy Secretary Ed Miliband was on the train from his Doncaster constituency to Leeds.

He was heading for the latest in a debate with the other four contenders in the campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party.

I know that because he tweeted about his journey.

"Packed with teenagers going to party in the park. Some get their kicks from concerts, we make do w. hustings!" he posted at 10.38am on his Ed_Miliband Twitter site.

Strangely, he did not tweet later in the day about how the hustings had gone even though he must have felt like singing.

As the debate went on the political committee of Unite, the UK's biggest trade union, announced that it was backing Ed Miliband.

He already has Unison and the GMB in the bag.

It was interpreted by Sunday's papers as a snub to the other Yorkshire contender Ed Balls.

Within 24 hours his "Ed Balls for Labour leader blog" had the Morley and Outwood MP denying rumours that he was thinking of pulling out of the fight.

"I joined this contest because I believed this was a fight worth fighting for the future of our party and our country, I still do," he blogs.

The Unions will play a big part in the electoral college system of voting which the Labour Party uses to choose its leader.

So far Ed Balls has the backing of the Communication Workers Union.

When the electoral college meets on the first day of the Labour Party Conference in September a third of the votes will be cast by unions. Another third are in the hands of the Labour branches who are holding their individual ballots. The final third will come from the Parliamentary Labour group.

The bookies' favourite is still the former Foreign Secretary - Ed's big brother David Miliband.

Left winger Diane Abbott and the former health secretary Andy Burnham, the other two contenders, have the longest odds.

Last orders

Len Tingle | 19:15 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

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On average four pubs shut for good in Yorkshire last week. Another four will close next week.

It is an amazing rate of attrition. But is it all down to the recession?

Well, Sheffield landlord Anthony Manderson has been telling me there's another factor which is putting him out of business.

He claims that the "tied house" system is making his pints so uncompetitive that his customers are going elsewhere.

The "tie" means he not only rents his premises from a big pub chain but he is also contractually bound to buy his beer from the same company.

He claims he would be able to cut his prices by at least 50 pence a pint if he could buy his beer on the open market.

Enterprise Inns, the pub chain, says that is nonsense.

They blame politicians.

The company told me there have been: "successive increases in beer duty, the smoking ban, the burden of excessive regulation and the widespread availability of cheap alcohol from supermarkets".

The politicians themselves are not inclined to side with the "pubco's".

A select committee has been investigating the "tied house" system and is awaiting the results of a public consultation by the Monopolies Commission on exactly the same issue before it releases its report.

The pub chains themselves admit that reform could soon be underway to give their publicans a little more flexibility to run their businesses.

But they also point out that since 1966 there have been twenty official reviews of the "tied house" system. On each occasion politicians have failed to abolish them.

Money to burn

Len Tingle | 16:32 UK time, Friday, 9 July 2010

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For forty years Drax Power station near Selby has been at the heart of generating the nation's electricity supply.

It is enormous.

This one plant produces a staggering nine per cent of the electricity requirement of the whole of the United Kingdom.

Why was it built in that sleepy part of the country?

Well, Drax was planned and built in the 1970s to sit alongside the Selby coalfield which went into production at roughly the same time.

So no guesses as to what fuel it uses.

In fact Drax is Europe's largest coal-fired power station and at full power needs 36,000 tons of coal every day.

Back in the 1970 and 80s nobody bothered about how much Carbon Dioxide that produced.

For the record, that amount of coal produces over 20 million tons of carbon dioxide when burnt.

Drax is not just the biggest power station of its kind in Europe. It is also the single biggest polluter.

Fast forward forty years and if Drax continues to spew out that amount of carbon dioxide it will break EU emissions regulations and will have to shut in less than a decade.

That's where willow, straw and elephant grass grown by Yorkshire and Lincolnshire farmers comes in.

Not to mention imported peanut shells, pulverised pine pellets and rape seed.

Drax is now burning these "biomass" products by mixing them with coal..

So far Drax has replaced around twelve per cent of its coal with these greener fuels.

It has just opened an £83 million pound handling facility and wants to use even more.

That is not surprising because when compared to coal biomass produces less than half the amount of pollution.

But there is a problem.

Coal costs half the price of biomass crops. Somebody has to pay the difference.

That "somebody" can only be the Government becuse in a competative market Drax would soon be out iof business if it simply charged its customers more.

This is the point where decisions have to be made by the new Energy Secretary Chis Huhne.

Is it worth using huge amounts of agricultural land to grow crops which will never reach the table? And should the tax payer stump up money to burn?

I have spent a fair bit of time at Drax with the Politics Show cameras. I also met farmers who have planted out fields of willow.

You can see how I got on this Sunday July 11th on BBC 1 at 11.30 BST.




A week is a long time in politics

Len Tingle | 15:07 UK time, Monday, 5 July 2010

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Taking a "quiet week" off is almost impossible for political journalists just now.

After the election; the formation of the coalition Government and the emergency budget I persuaded myself that it was the right time for a few days in the sun.

I got back to Yorkshire a week of Cornish pasties and cream teas to find I'd missed the Prime Minister and the entire cabinet in Bradford; the Deputy Prime Minister in Sheffield and another round of threatened cuts in public spending.

Huddersfield's Harold Wilson coined the phrase "as week is a long time in politics".

But I think he had a better one for people wanting to take a break from the breathtaking pace of political events.

"I'm an optimist. But I'm an optimist who takes my raincoat."

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