UK election: Total destruction to your mind

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The votes are in and the Conservative Party have crossed the threshold necessary to form a government. Their partners in coalition, the Liberal Democrats, have seen their votes drop from 62 to 8. The Labour party are in second place and are down 26 seats, but the real trauma for them is seeing their votes in Scotland collapse.

Labour have dominated Scottish politics for almost a century and to see 56 of 59 seats go to the Scottish National Party is devastating for them. The Labour Party has always spoken in socialist terms when it suited them but since the rise of neoliberalism they have jumped on that bandwagon (much like the Democrats in the USA). And the old saw that if you want rid of the Tories you must vote Labour sounds pretty hollow now that people do the maths – even if every one of the 59 Scottish seats had gone to Labour, the Tories still would have won. (This hasn’t stopped Scottish Labour from trying to spin their defeat in a similar fashion to the Democrats when Gore lost, ie “it was all Nader’s fault”; though in this case, the logic would be that somehow the SNP got people in England not to vote Labour…if fear of having to deal with the SNP swung Labour voters to the Tories, that doesn’t suggest those voters are after progressive policies).

The punditry has been saying for some time now that Scotland really isn’t more social democratic than England, but this result may put paid to that analysis. The SNP ran a campaign with a message of anti-austerity and against the renewal of Trident nuclear missiles. Conventional wisdom in the neoliberal era has been that this sort of campaign can only fail. Conventional wisdom took a battering last night.

The Scottish Labour Party has retained one seat (as have the LibDems, down from 11; the Tories have kept their one Scottish seat) and seen several prominent MPs defeated, including the leader of Scottish Labour Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander, Shadow Foreign Secretary and MP since Blair’s 97 landslide. He lost to Mhairi Black, a 20 year old student and part-time chip shop worker.  Scottish Labour have seen their power base decimated, killed off by jettisoning their principles for a Blairite deal with the devil.

In England the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls lost his seat. Charles Kennedy, former leader of the LibDems and MP for 32 years, also lost, as did his colleague Vince Cable, who had been the Business Secretary in the coalition government. Far right anti-immigrant UKIP leader Nigel Farage failed to win his seat, his party only electing one MP. He resigned as party leader. (Disturbingly though, UKIP saw the highest increase in its share of the vote at 13%).

Party leaders Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg also resigned.  All in all a terrible day for the status quo. Even the Tory result, while depressing from a progressive point of view, only gives the Tories a bare majority. Bad relations with his backbench MPs, a few resignations, deaths etc, and they may soon be in an impossible position. The last time a Tory government was in this position was with John Major, and he referred to his troublesome backbenchers as the “bastards“.

As it is, they are going to find it difficult to square the circle of maintaining their professed belief in the Union, dealing with the English nationalism they have stoked up (in the tradition of Thatcher), and finding any legitimacy in Scotland where they have only one MP.  Furthermore, the SNP as the third largest party would be entitled to sit on select committees. They will be able to raise questions in Parliament and may be able to make an appealing case for progressive politics for voters in the rest of the UK.

This election has made clear that the political differences between Scotland and England, the two countries that created the Union in 1707, are vast – one social democratic and the other lacking a strong progressive force.  Something will have to change, but at this point it’s anyone’s guess where it will end up.

For the moment, perhaps Swamp Dogg sums up the effect Scotland has had on the British status quo.

PG&E kills wave power for California as Scotland moves forward

Pacific Gas & Electric is abandoning pilot projects for wave power off the California coast. It cited lack of funding and high costs of the projects as the primary reasons.

The projects were tiny in size, 2 MW and 5 MW, quite unlike current plans by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (formerly S.F. Mayor) to build a 10-30 MW wave project near San Francisco which could be expanded to 100 MW. Clearly there are economies of scale in energy projects. The 5 MW PG&E project would have cost at least $50 million while San Francisco’s has been estimated at $120-140 million, less than three times the cost for potentially vastly more power.

The ocean is an unforgiving place. Salt corrodes equipment. Wind and waves knock things around. However, development of wave power continues. There are a fascinating number of wave energy generation systems being tested now: oyster-like contraptions that sit on the ocean floor, buoys and snake-like devices that create power from passing waves, and a new one like looks like a squid.

Scotland thinks wave power can be commercially viable and is marshalling huge resources to find ways to create power from waves, as well as wind and hydro. Scotland has been called the “Saudi Arabia of renewable energy” and is already generating more energy than it uses. Once they harness more of it, specifically wave and tidal, their energy output will be prodigious. One wonders why California can’t do this too.

The European Union may put substantial funds into a wave power project in Scotland. If funded and built, it will be the biggest grid-connected wave energy system in the world. Multiple other wave power projects are being planned or have already begun in Scotland. Wave power, unlike wind or solar, is quite dependable and steady. It’s doesn’t fluctuate much, especially not in the windy and stormy ocean off the north of Scotland. It seems to me that Scotland is racing ahead, developing important new technologies while California took a few timid baby steps then gave up. Some company, maybe several of them, will figure out how to do wave power at grid scale. But it doesn’t look like such companies will be from California or even from the US.

Europe has a vision, a big one. They want to produce as much of their own power as possible from renewable sources, and they want to do it relatively soon. This isn’t just because they want to hug trees and stop climate change. They are also doing it because they don’t want to rely on dicey oil and gas pipelines, which pass through sometimes unstable and unfriendly areas. The Desertec Foundation, which is backed by huge Eurozone commercial interests, wants to install vast solar power in the Sahara, and then send what those countries don’t use to Europe via direct current. That’s what I mean by thinking big. There are no such projects in the U.S. or California on this scale. And there need to be. We are falling behind.

(crossposted from CAIVN)

Squid-like wave power device for Scotland

SQUID, which looks somewhat reminiscent of its namesake, has an inflatable absorber similar to a large balloon which fills with sea water. Sitting just under the surface, the absorber is moved by passing waves and the energy from this motion drives a generator to produce electricity.

AlbaTERN, the company developing it, hopes to have a test 10 MW array withing six years off Scotland.

Polizeros Radio. SNP win in Scotland, Republican debate. Pakistan

We had a lively, wide-ranging show.

Steve Hynd, who is Scottish, details the hows and whys of the huge win by the populist Scottish National Party last week when they won a majority in parliament. The SNP describes itself as center-left, which by US standards would be considered far left. They favor no fees at universities and have already instituted free prescriptions for drugs. Scotland has huge mostly untapped wind, wave, and tidal power and could easily support itself should it vote for independence, something the SNP plans on bringing to referendum within five years.

The SNP, who have been around for decades, won because they a) never gave up, b) clearly stand for something. This is how to win in America too.

The Republican debate was characterized by a surprising amount of antiwar and anti-drug war views. Ron Paul has always championed such views. It’s unclear whether some of the rest believe this too or are just mouthing such views to make Obama look bad (just like how the anti-war movement was mostly anti-Bush.)

Will bin Laden’s assassination boost India’s stature in the region? They’ve already started making overtures to Afghanistan with offers of funding, perhaps to combat their proxy war against China in Pakistan. The US isn’t particularly relevant.

With Steve Hynd of Newshoggers, Josh Mull (@joshmull) and myself.

Listen to the show on BlogTalkRadio or on iTunes.

Download the mp3.

Polizeros podcast tonight. Pakistan, Libya, Scotland elections

Topics are Pakistan, Libya, Scotland elections, True Finns, Republican debate, more.

The podcast is hosted on BlogTalkRadio. Call in to listen live at 626-414-3492 tonight at 8:30 PM PT (9:30 MT, 10:30 CT, 11:30 ET.) You can also download it or listen to the archive on BlogTalkRadio after it’s done.

With Steve Hynd of Newshoggers, Josh Mull, and myself. Join us!