Columns


Leaders are what events make of them



Special to Times of Oman

Arguably the main functions of government are national defence and the maintenance of law and order.
Once these requirements are fulfilled other possibilities arise, such as education and health or industrial and economic development. However, remove electrical power from the national equation and any nation state grinds to a sudden halt.

The Ukrainian crisis has underlined this as did the energy shocks of the early nineteen seventies. The Blair government should have been well aware of the latter when pondering future British energy policy around 2002.

I shall return to this shortly, but first fast forward to the current Ukrainian crisis and the earlier decision of the German government to discontinue nuclear power generation following the destruction of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan during the mont of March 2011.

This German nuclear policy decision was a consequence of what former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan called 'Events, dear boy, events.'

A skilled politician of the old school, Harold Macmillan was denoting political issues which appear from nowhere and arrive in unwelcome order.

Such events caught the German Chancellor  Angela Merkel unaware during March 2011 when Fukushima leaked radiation and, immediately following this incident, April 26, 2011 marked the 25th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

This unwelcome combination of events ignited protests across Germany and by early May, with the Green Party making political gains in regional elections, Merkel was forced to abandon her nuclear policy. Within weeks of Fukushima and the subsequent Chernobyl demonstrations the German government were politically committed to eliminating nuclear power generation by 2022, creating a shortfall of as much as 23 per cent in  the country's electrical power generating capacity.

Overnight a future dependency on renewable energy was signalled and the Germans sought gas from Russia via a pipeline routed through of Ukraine — the home of the earlier Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Now another Ukrainian crisis threatens the present German energy policy: Events, dear boy, events.'

Whilst Angela Merkel had to address the challenging issue of coalition policymaking, which governs German political life, the earlier Blair government of 2002 was free from such uncertainties; holding a significant parliamentary majority as the ruling party — the kind of strong government the British electorate welcome.

Britain is now confronted with an impending electricity shortage, coupled to ever increasing consumer bills, with national grid surplus capacity presently at the 15 per cent level when it should be nearer 25 per cent to avoid potential power cuts, or electricity rationing.

Confronted with this critical supply situation Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government swiftly approved the construction of two new nuclear power plants. Too little too late this electrical capacity shall not come on stream before 2022; and prior to this any extremely cold winter threatens multiple power cuts across Britain.

As with Merkel, nuclear policy and coalition politics are likely to fuse and hinder any British mainstream political party from gaining parliamentary control following the 2015 general election; as the electorate are focussed on the ever-increasing cost of energy bills, and inefficient green energy levies; and not on American style party-political slogans, which any former Obama presidential campaign Guru may choose to present to the nation on behalf of the Labour Party: 'Events, dear boy, events.'

The author is a freelance contributor based in Britain. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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