Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Lessons We Could Learn From Our Entente Cordiale Partners

The Entente Cordiale is over 100 years old and was commonly thought to be a formal agreement between France and Britain although that was questioned as early as 1911:

The fundamental fact of course is that the Entente is not an alliance. For purposes of ultimate emergencies it may be found to have no substance at all. For the Entente is nothing more than a frame of mind, a view of general policy which is shared by the governments of two countries, but which may be, or become, so vague as to lose all content.

In recent years I've heard people of many political persuasions mention the Entente Cordiale, more in the context of a gentleman's agreement, when discussing European politics or policies yet I know, from living in England for many years, there is little love lost between the French and English.

The Scots tend to be less vocal, although when I mentioned to a friend I intended to write about France she said, "Don't forget to include the wonderful Onion Johnnies." She has happy memories of these French farmers cycling round the streets of Manchester - her home town - with big red onions dangling round their necks and speaking English with an alluring French accent.  I didn't disillusion her with my recollections of Onion Johnnies in Dundee. No red onions there (we had white) and no charming broken English. They spoke Scots and nobody seemed to care because their onions were a good price and quality.

Today, gas and electricity is a standard quality but prices vary wildly throughout Europe. The UK has just been informed of a massive second price increase for this year alone.

The French haven't had any increases this year and there is to be no gas increase says Sarkozy.  Their publicly owned electricity supplier has had its wings clipped by the government to a mere 1.7% rise this month and a further 1.2% rise next summer. The state run EDF requested annual increases of 5.1% for the next four years to take into account needed investments to upgrade France's 58 nuclear reactors.

Why can't the UK government take some lessons from our Entente Cordiale partners about controlling utility prices?  Because in the 90s the government sold off our publicly owned companies to the highest bidder and most are now under foreign ownership.

A few weeks ago politicians were raging about the excessive increases which will be foisted upon us this winter, but quickly forgot about the distress and health risks to the vulnerable, when it seemed likely that Murdoch would spill the beans on their behaviour.  Now Westminster is closed for business until September, when it sits for only 9 days before the Conference recess, after which it returns on 11 October. Ofgem are to probe Scottish Power's price rise; a fruitless task because we already know the outcome. Once Ofgem publishes their report the other 5 big energy companies (including the French EDF which also supplies the UK) will announce similar rises.

It's reported Sarkozy hopes his strong stance with his country's utility suppliers will deflect criticism that he is not protecting consumers' purchasing power.

Who protects our purchasing power?  It's time we had a look over the channel and acquired some hints and tips from our Entente Cordiale partners on how to express our anger. Thousands of vulnerable people will die this winter because they can't afford fuel bills.  Are we happy to allow that to happen without loud public protest?


Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

I hope nobody dies through attrition - food, heat or otherwise.

Keep warm and eat well and send the Bills to MPs and tell them to get the government to pay them. It is after all largely they and their predecessors policies which have created the rip off.

And they've neither got the guts, courts,natural legitimacy nor principles -other than their hubris - to withstand the boycott and its repercussions.

Neither pride nor apathy has a rightful place in a false presentation of austerity.

These increases are driven by greed and the desire to make profits based on the costs involved in the construction of new generating plants. Every business knows its investment in capital plant has a lifespan -but these privatised cartels assume they can claim all the profit then raid the pockets of its customers when it has to invest in replacements.

Socialise the costs and privatise the profit is certainly the thinking behind this game.

subrosa said...

Well said Crinkly. You omitted mentioning the consumer, but of course they don't matter because 99% of people need to use these utilities and therefore are in the hands of these cash cows.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

SR - no; I mentioned or referred to the customers a few times -c'mon now be fair!

JRB said...

I doubt if the Entente Cordiale ever held much sway on either side of la Manche
However the Auld Alliance, although long since defunct, still holds a special place in the hearts of our two nations.
Whenever holidaying in France we always made the point of stating we were Scots. Thereafter we experienced a distinctly warmer and friendlier attitude.

That aside;
I wish the French well and am perhaps a tad envious that their politicians have the chutzpah to tell the energy companies what they can do.

As for our politicians, we know exactly what they can, and will do, – absolutely nothing.

In a recent article you were, justifiably, highly critical of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. Just prior to the last election on the 10th April 2010, the same Mr Alexander made a speech in Inverness in which he stated –
”We will overhaul efforts to tackle fuel poverty so help goes where it is most needed. To help, we will regulate the heating fuel supply chain…
Last, but certainly not least after the winter we have had, we would get help with soaring fuel bills to the people who need it most.”

On the 20th May 2010, having gained office, Mr Alexander announced at the launch of the coalition’s 'Programme for Government' in which he led the talks, that there would be big steps forward … on energy bills … and on taxation.

Since that date, his silence has been deafening.

If ones local MP, who holds government office, reneges on his fine words, then to whom can we turn.

Brian said...

If I remember my A level history correctly, the Entente Cordiale was prompted by the rival alliances connected to the Russo-Japanese War. France with Russia and Britain with Japan. Neither Britain or France wanted to be drawn into a war against each other as third parties as only Germany would benefit. Britain's self-confidence had taken a battering in the 2nd Boer War and she wanted a continental ally. As France's Navy didn't threaten the Royal Navy but the expanding German High Seas Fleet did, France, with her big army, was the obvious country to side with. It had been British foreign policy for nearly four centuries to prevent the Low Countries, from when invasion could be launched, being controlled by a single power, and Germany had recently beaten France on land, so to maintain the balance of power, backing France made sense.
As for French energy prices, EDF offers for electricity: a standard, standing charge tariff with prices increasing with maximum demand; a version of economy 7; and a tariff with varying prices throughout the year (rather like airline seat pricing). Gas price varies with location.
If Energy Ministers hadn't relied so complacently on cheap and reliable North Sea gas for heating and power generation, they might have begun developing gas storage capacity and nuclear power stations fifteen or twenty years ago when it would have made a difference. The current (no pun intended) rush for renewables is camouflage for phased power cuts via "smart" meters.

Joe Public said...

Hi SR:-

1. "Today, gas and electricity ..... prices vary wildly throughout Europe. The UK has just been informed of a massive second price increase for this year alone."

One reason is that those sourced east of the North Sea have further to travel (to reach the UK), so transmission costs are greater.

2. @ Brian:-
"If Energy Ministers hadn't relied so complacently on cheap and reliable North Sea gas for heating and power generation, they might have begun developing gas storage capacity and nuclear power stations fifteen or twenty years ago when it would have made a difference."

If OFGAS hadn't insisted British Gas be forced to sell gas to power stations where a premium fuel is wasted generating electricity, the entire nation would be better off.

subrosa said...

Sadly Crinkly I think your hopes are doomed. Many will and will not apply for help because they feel it undignified.

subrosa said...

Oops Crinkly, yes you did. My apologies.

subrosa said...

I don't feel any alliance to France JRB, even though, when much younger, I visited the country many times. I agree saying I was a Scot radically changed atmospheres though.

Isn't it shameful that the likes of Danny Alexander can utter these words yet have no conscience today?

John Swinney, as you know is my MSP, had talks with Scottish Power because he was angry. Nothing has been reported since.

We need to protest about this yet our politicians know (or think) that we'll accept these increases without question.

How do we go about showing anger when most of the quangos who should be helping are purely paying lip service to governments instead of those they call their stakeholders (a disgusting description)?

subrosa said...

Brian, your history is correct - well the same as mine so I shouldn't say it is right but that's the account I know.

The present energy policy is the fault of successive governments as you say, but why should we pay for their errors in this area? We pay enough for their other follies.

subrosa said...

Joe, pleased to hear from you about this.

Thanks for your informative comment.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

I know the chances of bill paying boycott being implemented is negligible SR for precisely the reason you mention.

But the truth is if money talks, the lack of it shouts, and it's beyond time for the public to start shouting.

Otherwise this roller coaster in going no where but down and the politicians haven't a clue how to stop it - other than garner what the can in the meantime to protect their self interests.

There's no dignity in the grave, no matter how splendid the edifice above it and true self sufficiency begins with the commitment to value of self.

subrosa said...

Well said Crinkly. I'm going to write to Age Concern (or whatever it's called these days) and ask them what they're doing about this. Also my MP may be worth an email.

Brian said...

I was just glad my history was the same as the examiner's thirty years ago :)
" but why should we pay for their errors in this area? We pay enough for their other follies."
Precisely, we must take power back from the professional politicians, administrators and corporates who control the economy and farm us for their convenience while employing spindoctors to convince us that we depend on them. Perhaps Referism is the answer.

Jo G said...

The really sad thing is that so many pumped up Nationalists share Salmond's lack of interest in the truth about Lockerbie. Shame on him, but shame on them too for conveniently looking the other way.

They rave about change, they rave about Scotland and what she could become but when it comes to Lockerbie they fall back and quiver. They make me want to vomit!

AN SNP JUSTICE MINISTER STOPPED THE SCCRC FROM PUBLISHING ITS FINDINGS! SNP people should take that on board and should deal with any SNP Minister who dares to do such a thing. But will they?


subrosa said...

Referism is the answer Brian but not enough people are feeling the effects of our government as yet.

At times I admire the French.

subrosa said...

Jo this is the wrong thread for that, but I appreciate your anger. I'm sure you'll see way back when Megrahi was released, I was dubious about the medical people saying he had only 3 months to live. Very dubious.

Give a little credit to Christine Grahame, she's kept up the pressure about it and she's an SNP MSP.

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