Saturday, September 26, 2009

Water on the Moon

Spacecraft have confirmed that there is water on the moon, both in ice form, but also in the regolith, or moondust. So what? you are probably thinking, and what has that got to do with politics? All right, space policy is not very high on the political agenda, but there are signs that this might be changing, with some limited debate on the UK joining the manned space exploration effort. Certainly, there is no argument about the importance of space, at least in terms of Earth's orbit. Satellites are now integral to everything from communications to navigation. Hell, my phone has GPS. The fact is that space policy is increasing in importance and that in the very long term it could have a strategic significance similar to deep ocean exploration by European powers in the renaissance.

Water on the moon is important because the two basic materials needed to support human life are energy and water. Energy is abundant on the moon in the form of direct and continuous sunlight. Water means that oxygen for air can be electrolysed and food produced, without total dependency on supplies from Earth, which is critical given the mass limitations of current rocket technology. Basically, water on the moon means that a moonbase and economic exploitation of the moon becomes much more practical.

What is astonishing is that the Apollo astronauts also found water, but NASA thought that was due to contamination and so announced that the moon was completely dry. I do wonder if that mistake had some effect on US space policy. If NASA had got that right and so the moon had seemed more interesting, would the Apollo programme still have been halted? That makes an interesting road not taken at least.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Daniel Finkelstein on saving the Labour Party

Daniel Finkelstein, who I met when we both did the Conservative Candidate's board, has written an excellent article on how to save the Labour Party. It is spot on in every regard, and it is very much at odds with what Labour is actually doing.

I really liked this bit:
Advising Labour on how to improve its position without advising it to get rid of Mr Brown is like advising someone how to deal with their cheesy feet problem without advising them to stop wearing shoes made out of brie.
There have been many hundreds of thousands of words written about Gordon Brown and the Labour leadership, but I return to my usual theme. There is no theory of organisational leadership, none, that suggests that there is any benefit in keeping a failing leader in post. Different poll ratings for possible alternative leaders or worries about the length of the leadership election process are all irrelevant. What is comes down to is if the man at the top can to the job, or not. If not, then he should go and go quickly.

Even assuming the Labour party is not inclined to follow that advice, Daniel's article is still very well worth a read.

LSC funding and New Campus Basildon

Basildon underperforms in further education. This is not a matter of opinion, rather a matter of fact, sadly written in the statistics for educational outcomes. So, some of our 16-19 year-olds are not getting the futures that they deserve, and that is a tragedy. There was a solution though, a £90m brand-new college in Basildon Town Centre, run by a consortium of existing educational establishments that would bring a first-class education to thousands of our young people. The money was coming from the national Learning and Skills Council, and the hugely successful New Campus Basildon pilot had already been established in the Icon building.

Now, the troubles with the LSC are now old news in that they promised vastly more capital to projects up and down the country than they actually had. So, it has all come to a halt and we have to recognise that this Biblical level of incompetence has put paid to our most ambitious plans for the education of our young people. They have been comprehensively betrayed by a combination of a stumbling quango and an indifferent Labour government, who both seem to have missed the point that these young adults are our future. We have to provide for them, because one day they will be running the world, and we need them to run it well. We aren't giving up though. Our local education providers, and the local LSC to be fair, are doing their best and Basildon Council will also do what it can. We clearly need an alternative plan for our young people's education, and we are going to have one.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brown snubbed by Obama

This morning, I mentioned to my wife that Gordon Brown had failed to have a one to one meeting with President Obama at the UN. Her reaction was 'well, what did he expect?' followed by a few choice words on the idiocy of the Brown circle. As we know, Gordon Brown presided over the release of the Lockerbie bomber. He claimed that it was all the Scottish Government's doing and nothing to do with him, but the reality is that if Edinburgh had thought that they wouldn't have the tacit support of London then Al Megrahi would still be breathing the air of bonny Scotland. Releasing him was always going to cause a political row and the Scottish Government would not risk Labour, their main electoral rivals, making political capital at their expense on an issue like this that speaks to their basic competence in government. Grown-ups didn't take much time to figure this out, including President Obama, who probably didn't like being taken for a fool in addition to watching the release of a terrorist murderer of 200 US citizens. In fact, being seen with Brown could have been taken as an endorsement the terrorist release, and the President wasn't going to do that.

It is one thing to make a choice and accept the consequences, but it is quite another to make a choice oblivious to the likely fallout. One is principled, the other is idiotic.