Socialist Worker

Choosing to go nuclear?

Issue No. 1768

TONY BLAIR is thinking of using the din of war drums to smuggle in a decision to allow a dangerous new nuclear plant to start operating. The Mox plant at British Nuclear Fuel's (BNFL) Sellafield site in Cumbria has been mothballed since it was built in 1996 because of safety fears.

The plant reprocesses deadly plutonium to make fuel for nuclear power stations. It was at the centre of a huge scandal in 1999 when safety data on a trial batch of fuel exported to Japan was found to have been falsified by the company. Laurence Williams, the government's official chief inspector of nuclear installations, said, 'I make no bones about it. Sellafield is probably the most hazardous site in the UK.'

The BBC reported this week that a planned announcement of the go-ahead for the Mox plant had been delayed in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the US. But it said that ministers still looked set to allow the plant to start generating soon.

Why is Blair keen for the lethal Mox plant to go ahead? The Independent put it simply: 'It comes down to money. Mox is crucial to the government's plan to part-privatise BNFL before the next election.'

RADIO stations in the US have banned a list of 150 songs from being played in the wake of the devastation in New York. The banned list is not just targeted at those with titles or lyrics that might be deemed offensive.

The banned list is also aimed at keeping off air anything that even hints of an anti-war or peace message. Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' is banned. So too is 'Imagine' by John Lennon. And in a blatant piece of political censorship, everything by left wing band Rage Against the Machine is banned.

Don't worry, just spend

THE RICH won't let death and destruction stop them splashing out on looking their best. The Financial Times's 'How to Spend It' supplement gives them a few tips on 'must have' items for the wardrobe. Top of the list for bad taste is what the paper dubs the new 'haute peasant' chic.

The 'key elements' of the 'distressed peasant look' include a 'sage felted wrap'-a snip at £2,240, with matching peasant-style boots at just £790 a pair. Capes 'are back this season'. At just £2,140 for a black and grey brushed wool number, who could resist? The 'must have decorative detail of the season' is a 'cream pearl encrusted top' at just £2,138.

And to complete the outfit how about a 'black diamond and ruby pave set flower brooch', yours for just £32,000?

If at first you don't succeed...

NEW LABOUR'S science minister Lord Sainsbury has shown his usual grasp of environmental issues by appointing Christopher Andrews to the board of the National Environmental Research Council.

The council spends £192 million a year funding research, and says its 'priority for environmental science is to understand and predict the complex behaviour of the earth system and its sustainable development'. Andrews recently retired as chairman and managing director of Rhoda Ltd, whose very green-sounding slogan is 'Improving everyday life-inventing the future with chemicals'.

Rhoda's most recent contribution to the 'earth system' was to release sulphur dioxide from its sulphuric acid plant at Staveley in Derbyshire in April. Three policemen and a TV reporter had to have hospital treatment. The firm was fined £11,000 in December 1999 for releasing poisonous mercury from the Staveley plant the previous year.

The company's defence was that it had no previous convictions for pollution. Rhoda forgot to mention that until 1998 it and the Staveley plant had been owned by the giant Rhone Poulenc chemical company, which also employed Christopher Andrews. Rhone Poulenc was fined £50,000 for a gas release at the Staveley plant in 1996.

THE number of business appointees working in government departments is soaring. The figures, for 1999 to 2000 show that there were 1,120 'inward secondees' working for three months or more in government departments. 'Inward secondees' is New Labour speak for people paid by business and given official government jobs.

The 'secondees' included Mark Jennings of British American Tobacco, who spent a year working as an 'export promoter' in the Department of Trade and Industry helping sell cigarettes to Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.

No rich queue

NEW LABOUR MP Julia Downs is an enthusiast for the government's Private Finance Initiative and Public Private Partnership. She also sits in the parliamentary select committee on health, which is about to begin a major inquiry into 'the role of the private sector in the NHS'.

Her constituents in Swindon will be keen to hear what she makes of the latest example of private sector involvement in the NHS. The Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust is inviting private firms to pay for the right of their staff to jump the queue for NHS treatment.

The trust hopes to raise £400,000 a year from the scheme. Trust boss Sue Harvey says, 'The government is very keen on marketing the health service.'

WHEN Christopher Headdon quit as boss of the troubled insurance firm Equitable Life he fared better than many of the company's policyholders, who have been left fearing for their pensions.

Headdon walked away with a £94,000 a year pension. Headdon has just picked up a job on the board of the Halifax. It has recently taken over Equitable.

Things they say

'CAN anyone mention an international conflict in the last 30 years that would have been better resolved without America's intervention?'

Disgraced former cabinet minister Peter Mandelson exercising selective memory in an attempt to get back in Tony Blair's good books

'A decentralised capitalist system is extraordinarily resilient in the face of physical damage. Civil disobedience can halt a modern economy much more quickly than a bombing campaign. That demands the overt participation of the many, not the secret attacks of the few.'


'I HAVE been a warmonger all my adult life'

Ultra right wing Mail on Sunday columnist PETER HITCHENS

'HE WAS playing heavy, up to £100,000 a hand. When he started suffering such heavy losses, he became agitated.'

NORM CLARKE on watching an Australian billionaire lose £20 million playing cards while stuck in Las Vegas after the World Trade Centre disaster

'WE SHOULD not be cramming in different ethnic groups into the crowded island of Britain.'

Tory MP LAURENCE ROBERTSON backing John Townend's racist remarks about Britain becoming a 'mongrel race' earlier this year

'YOU COULD not imagine more unattractive politicians. This is the Addams family without the laughs.'

SENIOR BLACK TORY after Robertson was appointed junior party whip in Iain Duncan Smith's new right wing shadow cabinet

'IAIN'S problem is that, however nicely he says it, his message attracts these people.'

STEVEN NORRIS on Duncan Smith's appeal to extremists

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 29 Sep 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1768
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