Ritchie and the cappucino economy

My God the man has no shame:

This week has provided telling evidence that when all else fails people expect government to work.

I’ve not noted the presence of the private sector in dealing with flood problems.

Nor, come to that, have I yet heard mention of its role in any solution (though I suspect it will, very soon, be a good time to be a plasterer).

The fact is that when it comes down to it this suggests that my theory of the Cappuccino economy has much going for it.

The foundation of a cappuccino is strong black coffee. That, in my metaphor, is the state. It is the foundation on which the private sector economy – the hot frothy milk – can be built. And right on the top, whether chocolate or nutmeg, is the topping that is used to persuade us that all the exciting things in life come from the frippery only the private sector delivers, and which does, therefore, apparently justify the view that only it adds value.

Actually, as the cappuccino proves, to be successful this lot have to be found in combination, but that’s a fact that we often ignore until crisis arrives. And then we resort to a black Americano, or even a double espresso, as we are right now.

The Somerset Levels problem started back in the 1990s when the Environment Agency started to take over management of the rivers from the local drainage boards. That central organisation of the Curajus State has then entirely fucked up the management of the area. To argue that central government, that caused the problem, is therefore the solution is simply outrageous.

74 comments on “Ritchie and the cappucino economy

  1. Outrageous yes but standard. The only response to the failure of government is more government. Blown your budget? Have a bigger budget.

  2. Aren’t the utility companies all working 24/7 to repair and maintain the electricity and gas supply. As will be the telecom companies. And the supermarkets are being kept stocked. And the train companies are keeping the transport going. And the pubs are keeping open and serving soup & sandwiches. And the shops are selling waders and wells and dinghies.

  3. One of the big roads near my house has been completely closed for over a week now due to flooding. This is the main road that I use to get anywhere I need to go, and as a result of it’s closure my life has become measurably worse.

    It used to take me 15 minutes to drive to work. This morning it took me almost an hour. To get to the nearest shops used to be a 5 minute drive, now it’s a 15 minute walk or a half-hour’s drive.

    The local council had a page on it’s website with “up to date” information that was woefully bad, andseemed to enjoy things like opening one of the small side roads up so that we could actually get where we needed to go in the evening, then closing it the next morning without telling anyone (meaning everyone tried to get down there, and all the traffic got snarled up).

    Now (on the 8th day of the disruption) they’ve finally updated the website with things like a map showing where the blockades are, and actual useful information. Oddly, exactly the things that I emailed to complain were missing yesterday morning.

    The point: If this was being mismanaged by a private company, I’d simply not pay them next month. I’d complain, kick up a fuss and expect some sort of rebate or consideration due to the inconvenience. But as it’s the council screwing things up, I have to keep paying my £118 per month council tax on threat of arrest. There’s no incentive for the council to provide good customer service or to open the road as soon as possible – they can just sit back and take their time with no penalties.

  4. At least one of the major insurers has “on the ground” claims handlers in mobile offices going out to flood areas to help people through the claims process face-to-face. So no complaints about “automated call lines or Indian call centres”

    And I also know for a fact that in the floods before Xmas the office-based claims staff were working all hours of the day to get claims settled and money paid out to policyholders. No doubt they will be doing the same now.

    Still, it’s easy to sit in your shed in Norfolk and pontificate about stuff you know feck all about.

  5. My cappuccino is based on a thick dark brown cupful of private wealth-creating activity and the frothy stuff on top is what the state does with the part of the coffee it takes from me and returns condensed and (very) reduced after its pass through the ‘machinery’ of government. Right now my cup is less than half-full.

    There are already enough examples here for him to grovel and apologise for being so facile, but….

  6. If his analogy were correct (I don’t like coffee so I am not 100% sure I understand it). The difference between the USSR in 1989 and the US should have been the same as the difference between a cappucino and a black coffee?
    I.e. not very much.

  7. his theory of the cappucino economy? He calls it a theory? It is reminiscent of his fascinating series of unintelligible “venn diagrams” from last year.

  8. “as the cappuccino proves, to be successful this lot have to be found in combination”

    That really is bonkers even by Ritchie’s normal standards. So espresso alone is not a common drink? Hot milk? I’m damn sure chocolate on its own is more common than cappuccino.

    One has to wonder about the perspicacity of the man’s followers.

  9. David – The USSR was a hot, rich, steaming mug of social justice and courageous stateyness.

    The United States is a poisoned broth of neoliberal exploitation of the poor and tax injustice. They would do well to become more like the delicious espresso shot that is Cuba.

  10. I can’t wait to see the real Murphy Richards give us a sensible metaphor in response to this idiotic parody.

  11. Tax justice is like a hearty bowl of oxtail soup. It is nutritious and warming, and naturally complements the doughy, crusty roll of leftwing retired accountants.

    Generous funding from the unions is the fresh smear of organic butter on that roll. It helps tax justice slip down the gullet quite pleasingly.

    Neoliberals hate oxtail soup, because they quite literally are leopards who can’t change their spots, and are barking up the wrong tree as a result.

  12. The cappucino economy also appears to be served up with the have-cake-and-eat-it economy judging by the bleatings of the Environment Agency’s friends in ‘academia’ (Ivan Horrocks anybody?).
    So the dredging it failed to do over the past 13 years, after hundreds of years of dredging, “wouldn’t have made any difference” (why the fuck have we been dredging these past 500 years then?). By contrast “gov’t cuts” over the 12 months or whatever have been “brutal” and have caused the rivers pour forth. Really? Tell us how that fuckin’ works!
    An alternative suggestion: Ritchie, Owen Jones and assorted lefty wankers were praying for a really cold winter. They had all their posters ready to scream “fuel poverty”. And then it didn’t happen, no speeches for Ed Milliband, he even had to pretend to make up some economic policies. And one day it rained, and rained, and rained. But Ritchie and Owen were caught off-guard. They couldn’t think quickly enough of how exactly the rain was the fault of the evil Tories and Ritchie couldn’t think of a sufficiently coherent line to help him profit from others’ misery.
    So he comes up with some stinking dog-shit metaphor about a ‘cappucino economy’: useless bastard.

  13. > The Somerset Levels problem started back in the 1990s when

    You’ve said that several times, as though it were self-evident. Have you ever provided any evidence?

  14. There’s currently a large privately organised voluntary operation going on to supply the livestock that have been displaced on the Levels with fodder and bedding. Farmers from all around the country have donated feed and a number of companies have donated transport, including the Great Satan, Tesco itself. A private firm of auctioneers, Greenslade Taylor Hunt are co-ordinating feed deliveries to and from their Sedgemoor auction centre and have provided accommodation for over 500 cattle that had to be moved from rising flood waters.

    If anyone wishes to donate, The Addington Fund (a Church of England charity that works in rural areas) has set up a fund that will help with such work, providing transport for animal feed in the short term, and helping with housing costs for displaced families in the longer term.

    http://www.addingtonfund.org.uk/news/more/somerset-flooding/

  15. Fuck off, Billy. We’re all well aware that you refuse to read any evidence that conflicts with your favoured viewpoint in any given field, but then to come here casting aspersions is a bit much even by your scurrilously low standards.

  16. @Andrew M: that’s quite a nice, balanced article from the Beeb.

    The best bit is where they mention that this private company provided cover during the firefighter’s strike last year.

  17. I think he’s in need of serious help – the responses in the Comments section on the original link are totally inadequate even by his standards. As the ‘ultimate troll with a daft moniker’ (and always superb) Ironman says – the narrative really does change to fit whatever circumstances dictate. the EA magically ‘needs more money’ despite squandering more than the cost of dredging on PR and ‘diversity’. Despite having more manpower than Austria, Denmark and Germany combined it is ‘running short of people’ due to ‘the Cuts’.

    As Tim says, the concept of shame or admitting you’re wrong doesn’t cross his mind.

    P.S Ironman – have you seen his first link today on ‘Tax paid late is part of the tax gap’ – he whines that HMRC have not listened to him and other PCS sockpuppets yet when challenged by anyone, he simply yells ‘troll’ – I think the SHIT (Selective Higher Income Tax) proposed by Mr Ecks should be suggested, and of course Ritchie would be first in the firing line…..

  18. I never had the tea-drinkers pegged as anarchists. Learn something new every day.

    You could as easily argue that the state should be the cup; keeping the hot water out of your lap, but with minimal effect on taste.

    But I imagine I’d be told I’m missing the point of his crappy metaphor, and that I should spend £15 on more of his rambling to be enlightened.

  19. > Fuck off, Billy. We’re all well aware that you refuse to read any evidence

    I take it that means that you indeed have zero evidence for the proposition. No great surprise from some anon off the web.

    Is our host also just making stuff up or does he have some evidence? Anyone else?

  20. I never had the tea-drinkers pegged as anarchists. Learn something new every day.

    I’ve never liked coffee. Not sure that proves much, mind…

    As far as metaphors, the state should be nowhere near the cup in the first place. Anything that can be provided privately should be, and the state should provide only the things that cannot be provided privately (the big one that comes to mind being defense, but there’s an argument to be made for welfare as well).

  21. I like an airbag metaphor. You can get along quite happily barely noticing that the thing exists, but when you need help it’s suddenly there to protect you – and then disappears again.

  22. Van_Patten

    His responses were just finger-in-ear “I’m not listening”. His comment on privatised collection simply shows that HE doesn’t understand the legalities of tax collection.

  23. Dave,
    “Fuck off” isn’t an appropriate response to “Show me some evidence”.

    Wiliam Connolley,
    Here’s an impartial article from the Somerset County Gazette, dated March 2013, about how the Somerset River Board used to dredge regularly:
    http://www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk/news/10269236.Look_back_at_River_Tone_dredging/

    Here’s a more recent article in the Spectator which backs up Tim’s points; however you may not consider it an impartial source:
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9137131/instant-wildlife-just-add-water/

  24. Andrew>

    It’s an entirely appropriate response to anything William Mole aged 13 3/4 has to say.

    In this case he hasn’t read Tim’s posts on the subject, and/or thinks Tim ought to repeat the entire argument every time he talks about it.

  25. No doubt Billy Boy will be producing confirmatory evidence current rainfall is the highest for 5000 years, to the nearest hundredth of a millimeter, based on paleobadger ringpiece samples.

  26. No doubt Billy Boy will be developing a computer model to prove that current rainfall is the highest for 5000 years, to the nearest hundredth of a millimeter, based on 3 paleobadger ring piece samples from 1926

    Fixed that for you.

    I wonder if the reason he “doesn’t suffer fools gladly” is because he’s scared of the competition?

  27. I’m sure Ritchie would prefer that we all still drank Camp Coffee from bottles (minus the un-PC picture of native blacks on the label) than decent tasting stuff.

    After all, he’s clearly a man who attracts and enjoys the brown-nosing of a legion of camp followers.

  28. > Andrew M

    Thanks

    > http://www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk/news/10269236.Look_back_at_River_Tone_dredging/

    That one doesn’t help. Its basically just a pic of some old dredging. There’s nothing about the ’90s in it, nor indeed anything about recent dredging or not-dredging.

    > http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9137131/instant-wildlife-just-add-water/

    Booker in the Spectator definitely isn’t a good source. And its paywalled, so I can’t read it. Does it present only Bookers opinions, or does it contain any relevant facts?

    Dave> read Tim’s posts on the subject

    I can find some earlier posts by Timmy on the floods (e.g. http://www.timworstall.com/2014/02/01/sounds-sensible-3/) but none of those contain any evidence either.

    You’re claiming to have read Tim’s posts, I think, so can doubtless point to his evidence.

    Or are you the sort of people that happily accept anything with no evidence at all, as long as it fits your prejudices?

  29. William Connelly

    http://a0768b4a8a31e106d8b0-50dc802554eb38a24458b98ff72d550b.r19.cf3.rackcdn.com/LIT8309_cb6a4e.pdf

    Although not about the Parrett and Tone, this is an EA piece about pilot studies on dredging. They engaged in dredging of two artificial watercourses in the Somerset Levels (the North and South Drain). They appear to put a lot of weight on SSSI for the decision to trial dredging. See page 11 for evidence that they stopped dredging around 96:

    “The perception in the community is that since we stopped regular dredging and de-silting 15 years ago there has been an unacceptable reduction in capacity and this has affected the performance of both drains’ functions and harmed the environment. It was felt that dredging would improve conveyance, the effectiveness of water level management and the evacuation of floodwaters.”

    Then again this isn’t surprising. It is EA policy that there is a general presumption against “removal of sediment”, which is dredging:

    http://evidence.environment-agency.gov.uk/FCERM/en/SC060065/MeasuresList/M1/M1T1.aspx?pagenum=2

    Note that the EA itself admits that dredging would reduce the length of time that flooding would occur – this explains a lot of the mealy mouthed stuff from scientists and the EA itself that dredging would not have prevented flooding, but that isn’t the same thing as saying dredging would not have had substantial benefits for the locals:

    http://test.environment-agency.gov.uk/static/documents/Leisure/Curry_Moor_options_summary_sheet_-_costs_and_benefits.pdf

    They have used a quite low value for prevention of agricultural flooding in this analysis since they focus on the summer growing season.

    In summary, it looks to me that the EA decided that they quite liked flooding in the Somerset Levels and their environmental friends in hydrology agree. Their basic case is that this is a natural marsh and we cannot defend it in the long term. With the cameras on them, the EA has decided discretion is the better part of valour.

  30. > http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84705

    Thanks; I think you’d struggle to find anyone who thought that was unbiased, or indeed its self-refs to other euref blog posts really trustable. Its pretty clear that there is a lot there that is open to interpretation.

    I guess I’ll have to assume those were the sort of refs Timmy was working from.

  31. And since Starbucks sells the cappuccino and through its non-Ritchie approved legal tax planning pays a relative to sales small amount of tax, does this mean that Starbucks is the government? I just had a flashback to the scene where #2 tells Dr. Evil they own Starbucks.

  32. William Connolley

    Could you humour me and clarify your comments. Are you

    1) Just seeking evidence? In which you’re most probably satisfied by now aren’t you. Or

    2) Disputing the general assertion? In which case, may I ask you what your counter-assertion is and ask for the evidence?

    I’ll be honest with you, as someone who attended secondary school in Somerset and is acquainted with a few affected farmers, the failure to dredge rivers over the past decade does seem to be perhaps the single greatest contributory factor in the damage; sort of like shit public sector coffee ruining the cappucino.

  33. @ Billy

    I think you’ll find old chap that both North and Booker deal in well researched and documented facts which usually find their way into the mainstream media and even occasionally the bbc some days or weeks after being posted free gratis and for nothing on the web.

    Cuffleyburgers

  34. I’d also note that it’s really hard to take anyone seriously who uses the phrase “my theory the Cappuccino economy” in anything other than a joke… An intentional joke, just to be clear.

    Could Ritchie in drag been Ann Elk?

  35. Correction: “my theory of the Cappuccino economy”

    Actually, it doesn’t really make a difference one way or the other, does it?

  36. > Just seeking evidence?

    Yes.

    > In which you’re most probably satisfied by now

    No.

    There’s one useful ref, but its to a highly partisan source; essentially, to a blog; and which points to more blog sources of similar type (example: it spends a lot of time quoting unnamed experts).

    > Disputing the general assertion?

    No. I don’t have evidence either way.

  37. > No. I don’t have evidence either way.

    Changed my mind, because the evidence has changed. The Economist doesn’t believe Timmy. See http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21596519-prime-ministers-response-floods-has-been-patchy-it-wrong-blame-him

    “The government’s initial response to the disaster was also poor. Mr Cameron implied the flooding on the Somerset Levels, an area of land below sea-level, had been exacerbated by a decision to stop dredging the man-made rivers that drain it. That suggested the last, Labour, government was to blame. Yet dredging would at best (and at huge expense) have mitigated the flooding only a bit. The Environment Agency is right to give low priority to protecting farmland. Towns are more valuable.”

  38. “The Environment Agency is right to give low priority to protecting farmland. Towns are more valuable.”

    A dubious line for an organisation supposedly dedicated to maximum public service to take, have they or anyone else produced any evidence that this approach is either necessary or effective ? From what I can make out from an area I am fairly familiar with, the Severn Valley, they are only able to carry out damage limitation in urban areas in the event of major rivers flooding, actual prevention doesn’t seem that high a priority. Perhaps it isn’t even possible at anything like an acceptable cost, in which case the agency can be scaled back or abolished and responsibility for flood control handed back to local boards.

  39. William,

    This is way above my pay grade and, as a “green chap”, so to speak, you will be far more switched on to the detail (hence apologies if any red herrings amongst them), but does this provide some links (Natura 2000 was one of the items that Booker was specifically referring to in the Speccy article, not sure why it was paywalled for you, I had no problem):

    Hence, from this

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9137131/instant-wildlife-just-add-water/
    we go to Natura 2000 (by the way there were various other references, this was just the first (and only) one I followed through)

    http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/index_en.htm

    If you drill in on this to the Somerset Levels:
    http://natura2000.eea.europa.eu/#

    Separately, the environment agency then specifically refers to complying with Natura 2000 in terms of delivering their River Basic Management Plan:

    http://a0768b4a8a31e106d8b0-50dc802554eb38a24458b98ff72d550b.r19.cf3.rackcdn.com/gesw0910bstp-e-e.pdf
    http://a0768b4a8a31e106d8b0-50dc802554eb38a24458b98ff72d550b.r19.cf3.rackcdn.com/gesw0910bstt-e-e.pdf

    which then references to
    http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-1374
    with regard to protected areas / avoiding deterioration of habitats etc.

    Also:
    http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/db_gis/index_en.htm
    links through to
    http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-1400
    and
    http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/pdf/SPA/UK9010031.pdf

    etc, etc… loads of other links that I haven’t included here.

    And then, quite separately (and verifiably observed) we know that dredging has ceased in this area?

    As I say, this is more your territory than most, and not sure if that helps at all?

    I must admit I fail to see why (in any way) any of this stuff is an EU competency, rather than UK, but I guess that’s something completely different…

    (apols if bits above come out in bold etc, not intended, and I can’t control it)…

  40. Thornavis

    The EA basically believes that we should allow some farmland to be flooded, because the effect is far less severe than if we allow the water to reach towns. This is a logical move – you can see it in effect in Oxfordshire as vast tracts of farmland flood and Oxford city does not. The Somerset Levels are meant to flood to some extent.

    See this

    http://www.bishop-hill.net/storage/_CFMP_Parrett_2012.pdf

    The claim that dredging the rivers is expensive and would not have worked is one that is made by the EA and their hydrologist friends. The EA’s own report on the benefits of dredging in reducing the time spent under floodwater give the lie to this. (see link in my post above).

    I also see the liars in action at the Guardian claiming bizarre things as “if we rolled out dredging nationally as proposed on the levels it would cost a quarter of the UK’s GDP”. This is an unbelievable piece of crap – the Levels are one of about three major areas in the UK (together with the Cambridge Fens and the Humberhead levels) that are at risk of flood propagation (eg rivers + low lying land + tidal effect (3.73 on page 30) are important.

    http://cdn.environment-agency.gov.uk/scho1009brdg-e-e.pdf

    To get to the absurd number put out by Guardian’s green cretin, we need to be spending about £400 billion or so. The only way that the liars could have come up with such an absurd number is by taking the £4million put forward by the EA (a much disputed number) for 8 miles of river and then applying it to pretty much every river in the country. (something like 800,000 miles of river to be dredged). (Anyone know how many miles of river there are?)

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/13/beware-politicians-pretending-armchair-hydrologists

    Beware gullible journalists believing hydrologists. It is clear that dredging would help the Somerset Levels, but it is also true that in the long run a debate needs to be had about the long run viability – one that the EA has chosen not to have and have instead imposed their view – and then run away when the heat became too great.

  41. Apologies if this appears twice, I am not sure if I am being moderated (I didn’t think that happened on here..).

    William,

    This is way above my pay grade and, as a “green chap”, so to speak, you will be far more switched on to the detail (hence apologies if any red herrings amongst them), but does this provide some links (Natura 2000 was one of the items that Booker was specifically referring to in the Speccy article, not sure why it was paywalled for you, I had no problem):

    Hence, from this

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9137131/instant-wildlife-just-add-water/
    we go to Natura 2000 (by the way there were various other references, this was just the first (and only) one I followed through)

    http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/index_en.htm

    If you drill in on this to the Somerset Levels:
    http://natura2000.eea.europa.eu/#

    Separately, the environment agency then specifically refers to complying with Natura 2000 in terms of delivering their River Basic Management Plan:

    http://a0768b4a8a31e106d8b0-50dc802554eb38a24458b98ff72d550b.r19.cf3.rackcdn.com/gesw0910bstp-e-e.pdf
    http://a0768b4a8a31e106d8b0-50dc802554eb38a24458b98ff72d550b.r19.cf3.rackcdn.com/gesw0910bstt-e-e.pdf

    which then references to
    http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-1374
    with regard to protected areas / avoiding deterioration of habitats etc.

    Also:
    http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/db_gis/index_en.htm
    links through to
    http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-1400
    and
    http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/pdf/SPA/UK9010031.pdf

    etc, etc… loads of other links that I haven’t included here.

    And then, quite separately (and verifiably observed) we know that dredging has ceased in this area?

    As I say, this is more your territory than most, and not sure if that helps at all?

    I must admit I fail to see why (in any way) any of this stuff is an EU competency, rather than UK, but I guess that’s something completely different…

    (apols if bits above come out in bold etc, not intended, and I can’t control it)…

  42. William Connolley

    So your counter-assertion is that the EA was right, absolutely right to abandon the Somerset levels to the floods… and accordingly it did indeed do so.

    As I say, those acquaintances of mine would beg to differ, noting that the rain isn’t actually any worse but the flooding most definitely is. However, you and the EA can have it your way: all climate change, all real verified science.

    Also your way – and this is the corollory – no blame at all can be attached to this gov’t, because abandoning those rural areas is the right thing to do in your view isn’t it. You should write your support to Downing Street.

  43. Dr Connolley (DPhil),

    Did you miss Ken’s long response to your question. If you ask someone to go and find information for you, it seems a bit rude to then ignore them when they do.

  44. Getting back to the original argument. The economic basics are food, clothing, shelter.
    And the government provides which?
    So any idiot who actually likes cappucino will have the private sector providing the black coffee and the state providing the milky froth.
    I drink my coffee black.

  45. @ Mr Portato
    Give him time to read it – unless you imagine that he spends every minute of the day glued to this blog.

  46. William Connolley

    My apoligies, I do you a dis-service Sir. Your first answer was that actually you were testing us out but that no, you had no counter-assertion to offer, nothing genuine to offer. So, having priggishly posed as an advocate of objective reasoning, you now tell us in effect that you are the same leftist, whoring, misery chasing stable as Owen Jones and Richard Murphy.

    Intrinsic in this is the use of Argument By Untruth that the EA is dealing in. For example, the EA spends nearly two decades saying it is prpepared to let farmland flood as a consequemce of its decision not to dredge. And then, only once the shit has hit the fan, it engages its friends to start arguing – for the first time – that actually dredging would make no difference.

    I am very sorry for you that winter hasn’t been really cold, that there hasn’t been a spike in deaths as a result and that you haven’t been able to scream ‘fuel poverty’. Yes, deeply sorry for you.

  47. ken

    Thanks for that and yes I can see that allowing, or rather not attempting to stop, the flooding of some farmland to prevent worse flooding in towns makes sense. However as both you and Ironman also suggest that isn’t really what has happened here. We’re getting all sorts of spin such as the suggestion that there is something so exceptional about this Winter’s rainfall that none of this could actually have been prevented anyway, the statistics suggest otherwise. Even the claim that the EA has sacrificed human needs to those of wildlife is I suspect a useful red herring. For one thing this sort of flooding is definitely not wildlife friendly and I doubt if the EA has really had any sort of coherent plan to restore habitats by altering drainage patterns. More likely they have just been box ticking and paying lip service to environmental orthodoxy, whilst actually doing the usual self serving thing of cutting front line services to feed a bloated management structure and establish an impregnable bureaucratic empire

  48. In the EA pilot project ken provided a link to the EA explain that they dredged 70,000 tonnes of silt from 20km of somerset drains after having done none for 15 years. It cost them around £68,000. The claims of huge expense are not credible imo. Figures of up to £4 million has been bandied about which would be enough for over 1000km of waterways at the rates the EA themselves detail.

    One of the criteria the EA works under is that floodwater should be evacuated effectively. This prevents small floods becoming big floods and prevents water stagnating and becoming low in oxygen which harms aquatic life. The dredging they did in a small part of Somerset improved the effectiveness of that part of the system to deal with flooding – evacuating existing floodwater effectively means you have space for more floodwaters when it next rains and that the rain is less likely to be falling on saturated ground.

    After the dredging pilot project the EA went further. They started a river management pilot project which is still ongoing. In a number of locations landowners have been given almost blanket permission to de-silt, dredge and remove vegetation from their waterways without having to get EA consent first, so long as they avoid certain times of year.

    The projects the EA have and are undertaking suggest to me they are seriously but quietly looking at dredging as a means to improve the waterways for various reasons, and ways to encourage landowners to spend their own money doing it.

  49. Let’s remember, as recently as the beginning of this week commentators such as , yes, Ritchie were arguing that the flooding could have been prevented with …guess…yes, money. Now though, nah couldn’t be stopped.

  50. William,

    I tried posting something twice yesterday evening, but disappeared both times – I didn’t realise Tim moderated, maybe it was automatic due to too many web links?

    It followed up on Booker’s Speccy article (which you found paywalled).

    It referred to “Natura 2000”, compliance with which is specifically referenced to by the EA in their delivery plan for the Levels (ie as a protected habitat), if I read it correctly?

    And then we observe that the policy on dredging in the area has changed, which suggests that their actions have indeed been influenced by EU policy with regard to protected habitats.

    To go back to Tim’s point above, this is not simply our own “Courageous State” at work.

  51. PF

    I’m not sure about the material you link to. The Somerset Levels are a Special Protection Area and not a Special Area of Conservation.

    The bulk of the more conservationist stuff appears to be focused on the SACs:

    http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/management/guidance_en.htm

    To be fair, it’s so complicated, that I’m not sure. The EA could well have met their SPA requirements without doing much and I’m not sure that this is an EU directive driven story. Instead, I see it as being a logical result of:

    1) EA believes long run climate change will raise sea levels
    2) EA believes (with good reason) that we should flood farmland rather than towns
    3) EA believes in not engaging in dredging (ties to the EU Water Framework Directive and probably to Habitat stuff) because in the long run because of 1) and 2), it’s pointless. In the short run because of 2) it’s preferable.
    4) In order to justify not dredging the EA fixed the numbers to make it look cost ineffective (supposition on my part).

    The issue is that the EA has made a political decision – we should kick the farmers off the Somerset Levels – without doing any of the political bit: gaining consensus and paying people off. There should be a mature debate about this – long run cost benefit analysis with transparent figures.

  52. Ken,

    Yes, maybe I am confused; as the EU Natura links also specifically refer to SPA’s (with regard to Birds Directive), and the EA then refers to complying with that. I can’t remember the exact words they used. As you say, maybe that is all less onerous and therefore less relevant..??

    As I said – above my pay grade..:) I can’t look at it further now, maybe I’ll try and read it again after the weekend.

  53. Ironman> So your counter-assertion is that the EA was right, absolutely right to abandon the Somerset levels to the floods

    No. All I’ve done is provide a quote from the Economist, and pointed out that quote contradicts Timmy (who has still provided absolutely zero references; though its good to see various commentators here making up for Timmy’s laziness). Which was, to remind you,

    “Mr Cameron implied the flooding on the Somerset Levels, an area of land below sea-level, had been exacerbated by a decision to stop dredging the man-made rivers that drain it. That suggested the last, Labour, government was to blame. Yet dredging would at best (and at huge expense) have mitigated the flooding only a bit. The Environment Agency is right to give low priority to protecting farmland. Towns are more valuable.”

    The Economist is generally regarded as a Reliable Source. Well, not by lefty-Guardian-reading-types, obviously, but it is by people like Timmy. You’re not obliged to take it as gospel, any more than I’m obliged to believe everything the IPCC says, but if you find your favourite source disagreeing with you it ought to at least give pause for thought.

    Ken> http://a0768b4a8a31e106d8b0-50dc802554eb38a24458b98ff72d550b.r19.cf3.rackcdn.com/LIT8309_cb6a4e.pdf

    That looks quite useful. I haven’t had time to read it all. It does contain (for the first time I’ve seen here) the bit about “stopping regular dredging” in 1996; but, clearly, not dredging entirely. It would be nice to see data for miles or river dredged per year; or tons of silt removed; or spend.

    Section 1.4 seems most relevant overall:

    “Work at the pilot sites showed that the maintenance work reduced flood risk locally. But in some areas the maintenance work was not cost effective – the flood risk benefit of the work did not justify the expenditure. We had to consider the whole catchment (that is, the whole river system) including the purpose of any watercourses in the catchment. Each pilot site was different and decisions have to be made on a case-by-case basis, using evidence and engineering knowledge to make judgements. Working with local communities to discuss the work and agree if it is the best flood risk management measure for them was beneficial. ”

    Ken> the EA decided that they quite liked flooding in the Somerset Levels

    You’re ignoring their assertion that the govt wouldn’t allow them to spend money because it didn’t fit within the cost-benefit constraints that Cameroon’s lot were imposing?

    PF> lots of links…

    I looked at a few, but there’s an awful lot of words to read, and most of them are river management plans and stuff, which is hard to reduce down to “this action or lack of action caused flooding”. Which is why most people not interested in the detail are going to go with summary statements, like those from the Economist.

  54. William

    No. Firstly the EA stopped doing dredging in the late 90s so blaming the present government is absurd. Secondly it is clear that from the pilot projects that the 8x CBA can be overruled when other considerations exist.

    The CBA requirement was cited by the EA in response to the 2012 floods and quite frankly it looks like they fixed the figures (as noted above they managed to dredge 20 km for £68,000, which is far closer to the numbers touted by the locals than the claimed £4 million of the EA – although it should be noted that some of this is the immediate cost and the remainder is a 20 year maintenance cost – but even the immediate cost is about two orders of magnitude higher than the numbers produced by the locals. In addition, the EA assessment puts a zero monetary value to flooding of agricultural land in the winter and even the amounts they put for summer flooding look quite low).

    The catchment area flood management plans for the Somerset Levels (both the 2008 – pre-Cameron and the 2012) make it clear that they believe that option 6 – some flooding is their preferred option.

    It is the EA that made the decisions and they are now busy trying to blame others.

  55. Ken, PF, Thornavis

    My thanks; I intend to read every word. In short, there do indeed appear to be hard decisions to make after carrying aout a cost-benefit analysis. My objection is to the have-cake-and-eat-it way lefties are arguing both that this is all due to ‘cuts’ and that spending the money isn’t cost effective.

    William

    Here’s my personal assertion: your pretence to be applying objective reasoning was just that: pretence. In fact you were just shit-stirring. So in fact “Fuck Off Billy” was indeed appropriate, exactly what you deserved.

  56. One thing I don’t understand. I’ve spent a lot of time in French Flanders which has a lot of the problems of Somerset. it’s a natural marsh, flat as a pancake. Crisscrossed by drainage channels since it was reclaimed back in the middle-ages. Whatever EU directives, the French not giving une baise de vol about wildlife concerns, I watch them dredging watercourses. And they don’t seem to get these sort of flooding problems. Should that be telling me something?

  57. @ William Connolley
    Firstly “The Economist” is not my favourite source – I stopped subscribing when it ceased to be a provider of rational left-wing arguments that challenged my natural preconceptions when the then editor concluded that most left-wing arguments were irrational.
    Secondly, accepting that dredging would have mitigated rather than completely eliminated the floods, 99.9% is “only a bit” and there is no data on the inputs to the cost-benefit analysis. Dredging the rivers that are 42% silted up would have mitigated the flooding by a massive amount because 72% more water would flowed away and would have been cost-effective IF you include costs to private individuals and insurance companies or even the loss of revenue to HMRC due to the reduced profits from Aviva, Axa, Direct Line, and RSA. Perhaps they should have let locals dredge at 1% of the cost of EA dredging?
    Thirdly, I referred you to a policy document that showed that increased flooding of the Somerset levels was government policy (whether or not Blair knew about it) under the previous government. Quoting a magazine at me is no answer.

  58. I feel obliged to point out that his reference to The Economist was William Connolley’s SECOND bite at the cherry, after I had put him on the spot.

    His first attempt was to acknowledge that he wasn’t making any genuine assertion. He simply wanted to sneer at the methods of those who were trying to make a genuine contribution and then spend his afternoon sniffing that, no, your research doesn’t satisfy him and his standards. What a smug, dishonest twat.

  59. Ken> Firstly the EA stopped doing dredging in the late 90s so blaming the present government is absurd.

    I think you’ve missed the point. Re-read the Economist more carefully: “That suggested the last, Labour, government was to blame. Yet dredging would at best (and at huge expense) have mitigated the flooding only a bit.” The Economist is criticising Cameron not for stopping dredging, but for trying to throw the blame on the last govt, because (in the Economists opinion) the dredging stuff is largely beside the point.

    john77> http://www.oursouthwest.com/climate/registry/090800-parrett-catchment-case-study.pdf shows a deliberate attempt to reduce “conveyance”.

    The word “conveyance” occurs nowhere in that document. And your interpretation of the document appears to be completely wrong.

    > Thirdly, I referred you to a policy document that showed that increased flooding of the Somerset levels was government policy

    No. You made it up.

    Ironman> smug, dishonest twat.

    And you smell of wee and poo!

  60. No I don’t smell of wee and poo.

    You on the other are a smug, dishonest twat. The string of comments and your dishonest non-contribution is my, er, evidence. It was evidence you started out demanding wasn’t it.

    P.S. When you can think of any point you actually would like to make rather than tell everyone else that they’re missding the point, you will let us know won’t you?

  61. @ William Connolley
    I didn’t say the word “conveyance” occurred in the document – I put in apostrophes because that it is normal civilised practice for jargon.
    The report puts as “A key objective of the project was to create new wet grassland, fen, reed beds and wet woodland, which help to restore the natural function of the catchment to attenuate flood waters.”
    Also “This vision comprises 12 components that together will reduce the amount and speed of runoff down the river catchment,”
    This includes “Reviewing the feasibility of spreading floodwater across the Somerset moors”
    and “Converting farmland along river corridors in the floodplain to native woodland to slow the speed of river flow.”
    Of course I might be wrong and this is a document about sun-beds in Tenerife but I do not think so and the document specifically talks about slowing river flow and reducing run-off. Maybe you should read instead of using a “wordsearch”. Also maybe you should apologise: I did not make up the above quotes which I have copied and pasted from the document..

  62. William

    Unfortunately you’ve missed the point. Your assertions are that it was not the fault of the last Labour government because dredging would not have worked and would have been expensive. Note that if this decision dates to 1996 it would be a Major government action.

    This is the trick being used by the EA and their hydrologist friends, for which the Economist has fallen:

    1) Dredging would not have prevented the present floods
    2) It would be expensive

    In fact the EA itself acknowledges in its own dredging document that it would reduce the DURATION and SEVERITY of floods, not that it would prevent them outright. By claiming it would not have prevented it outright, the EA can claim dredging was a bad policy option (which they then back with the quite questionable 8x CBA analysis argument, which I tend to believe they have fixed). I think the people of the Somerset Levels would have preferred a lesser and shorter flood.

    Your attempt to extend a commentary from the Economist, a fun and interesting read, to policy analysis based on inference is a bit of a stretch. I suggest that you go and find some hard numbers (I’ve done my bit) and we can discuss in the light of that.

    I’ve always like the Economist, I used to be on pretty good terms with some of their journos, and even had the odd quote in there. It is very well written and argues eruditely, you can see all that Oxford tutorial essay practice. However, on subjects in which I am an expert, they tend to not infrequently get the wrong end of the stick – to be fair, most topics are such that they are difficult to boil down into a few hundred words. As a result, I’ve always wondered how reliable they are on subjects that I am not an expert in. I still subscribe and enjoy it though.

  63. Ken> Unfortunately you’ve missed the point. Your assertions are that it was not the fault of the last Labour government because dredging would not have worked and would have been expensive

    No, those are the Economists assertions. I’m saying that I (like a lot of people) are more likely to trust them as a source rather than some random bloke off the internet who doesn’t even provide his full name. I accept that *you’re* likely to believe yourself, and if you distrust the Economist I’ve provided nothing that would shift your opinions; but you haven’t really provided anything to shift anyone likely to believe the Economist.

    > find some hard numbers (I’ve done my bit)

    I’m not going to. Re-read the original context for this; my original request: Timmy is making assertions, and blogging about them as though they were established facts. If I blog about something, then you’re welcome to come and ask me to back that up. But if someone asks for hard refs, and all thats provided (by commentators, not even Timmy) is some very soft stuff, that’s not good enough. But I will acknowledge you personally have done a lot better than most here are capable of.

    Note, BTW, that one of the original replies to my request for supporting refs was “In this case he hasn’t read Tim’s posts on the subject, and/or thinks Tim ought to repeat the entire argument every time he talks about it.” However, subsequent to that, no-one at all has pointed to any refs that Timmy gave in any of his posts. I take that to mean that there were no useful refs in any of Timmy’s previous posts, and the anon who wrote that was just windbagging.

  64. Ken, John 77

    May I apologise for lowering your tone – really. I would have preferred to have adopted yours, but sometimes the ugly is necessary.

  65. William

    Oh well.

    1) If you cannot understand my point about the Economist, that’s fine. It means that you are insufficiently erudite to be able to recognise the flaws in their coverage in any area so as to be able to note the flaws I have suggested exist. It does, however, speak poorly of your intelligence and learning.

    2) Timmy’s point is that the floods are down to a lack of dredging. I’ve provided some EA support for this and in light of the fairly universal local view, I think we can say there is a better than balance of probabilities view that this is the case. Note that it is EA policy to avoid dredging.

    3) The EA’s own dredging report on the Somerset Levels shows that it would reduce and shorten floods, not that it would prevent the floods. This latter “prevent” is what the EA and their hydrologist mates keep using as a criteria in the press.

    4) The CFMP from the EA shows they preferred option 6 to flood at times and that this was their policy even in 2012.

    No smoking gun by any means. Perhaps we will have to wait for a post mortem.

  66. Re “the fairly universal local view…”

    The locals support dredging for completely different reasons. The farmers in the region believe it helps them drain their land in “normal” storms, i.e. not in flood conditions.

    The other option is for the farmers to actually maintain their own drainage system; then it wouldn’t matter as much whether the river is dredged. This costs them money, so they’d rather get the EA to do something, paid for by everyone else through taxation. The NFU have played a blinder here by jumping on the floods (which would *not* have been prevented by dredging) and making a lot of noise.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.