Monday, October 30, 2006

My Pink Half of the Drainpipe

There's been a lot written recently about green taxes so I don't see why I shouldn't say my piece as well.

The government and the two main opposition parties in have both been posturing and pontificating about how they plan to deal with the issue that is variously called Climate Change or Global Warming or The Greenhouse Effect. They seem to be mostly in agreement that the way to tackle this thorny problem is to levy taxes.

I don't think anyone really disagrees that the effect we're having on the world is generally a negative one. If you have finite resources of a commodity and you continue to use that resource faster than it can renew itself, then pretty soon it's going to run out. When that resource is part of the very fibre of the planet you're living on then the effect is that much worse. How long those resources might last is a whole different question but the fact thay they are finite is not in dispute. The world we live in is completely self-contained. The only fuel we draw in is sunlight. The rest of the world is a combination of gases, elements and minerals (pardon my chemistry or geology, there may be more to it than that but I'm sure you get my meaning) and we appear to be drawing more resources out of the ground and pumping it into the atmosphere faster than the ground can re-absorb it.

So, any initiative to try to deal with that can only be A Good Thing. But, and this is my whinge, why the fuck is the most imaginative way to deal with this problem to tax people? Your average British voter is pretty pissed off with the current government and their role as custodians of public money. Every week they come up with another idea to see how they can get more money out of us. Usually this involves telling us it's our own bloody fault and they have to do this for our own good. We're told we're all too fat so they're going to tax fatty foods. We're all binge-drinking alcoholics so they're going to increase the tax on booze. We're all stupid so more money is needed for education. We're all sick so more money is needed for health provision. We're all defrauding the welfare so we're going to have to have ID cards (and pay to have them).

The problem here is that people like to see a return on their money and the reality is that we never fucking do. If the government wants to take more of our money then we want to see the results of that investment. If booze is going to cost more to act as a disincentive to buy and drink it, then we want to see fewer drunks in the street on a Saturday night - fat chance!

And this is why Green Taxes are so appealing to the government, regardless of the party in power. There is no way of measuring the results. There will be no instant payoff. Richmond Council trebling the price of parking permits is not going to stop a hurricane hitting Bermuda or the icecaps melting. Whatever we do and whatever we pay in tax will have absolutely no effect at all on the planet. On the radio this morning, a presenter on a proper BBC news station seriously suggested that the taxes raised would "halt global warming" as if this was something that would be fixed next month. No, no, no. Green taxes, whilst on the one hand being unpopular will be seen by the politicians as a silver bullet to levy taxes at will, to shore up whatever other bit of financial mismanagement is going on elsewhere in the incumbent goverment. And because there will be no tangible result in the state of affairs, they can just keep on taking the money and telling us we're "doing our bit" to save the world. They'll just blame the Chinese or Indians or some other country's pollution when all those countries are really trying to do is improve their cut of global cash that is swilling around and to lead as profligate existence as we have done in the past. Well fuck right off, it's a scam and you know it Mr Blair.

If you really want people to buy into this idea then offer to ringfence the money raised by Green Taxes. Go on. Put some transparency in your taxation for once. Don't tell us you're charging us to fix one problem and then use the money to bankroll wars that you think will put you in the history books. Promise to spend the money raised on windfarms. Bugger those people who think they're ugly. There's a million places to put them on this island, the most windswept fucking place in the whole EU. Use it to subsidise putting wind turbines on houses and factories. Put it into a public transport system that for once in my 43 year lifetime (44 next week) might actually fucking work and be slightly better than just about bearable to use. State clearly and unambiguously how much money is raised and then put it back into the system in a real and visible manner. It still won't make a fucking jot of difference to the planet but people might actually accept that you're serious about this and not just flailing around as usual trying to find politically and/or morally acceptable ways to get money out of people to continue to shore up your financial mismanagement of the state.

Friday, October 06, 2006

We Were Wrong

McVities have removed the plain chocolate Hobnob from their product lineup. The PCH is a unique product occupying a niche in the biscuit market that is not filled by any other teatime treat. At a push I suspect PCH fans will resort to the plain uncoated Hobnob but I suspect few, if any, would consider the hazelnut, caramel or orange alternatives which are nouveau arrivistes lacking the low-end punch the PCH connoisseur craves.

I think McVities have acquired a somewhat scattergun approach of late to their products. They seem to want to stick any old topping, coating or filling on a biscuit and see if it’ll fly in the marketplace. These new products may briefly grasp the attention of the public but few I doubt have the integrity and qualities of the PCH that will ensure their long-term survival in the hurly-burly world of biscuits. They are tinkering dangerously with their range. Their marketing budget to get these new products recognised must be horrific and to what end? Most of them will have died away in a few years time to be replaced with some other flash-in-the-pan, gimcrack biscuit with equally transient credentials.

McVities! Sort your act out!

NB If you're an American, I'm talking about cookies, not biscuits.

NBB If, on the off-chance you read the Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down website (highly recommended), then I wrote the original email to Nicey and have not plagiarised this piece.