Posts Tagged ‘Corporate Donations’

Leaked Applebee’s Memo about Using the Cost of Living Crisis to Exploit Employees

March 25, 2022

A few days ago the Chris Hedge’s Fan Club posted a leaked memo from Applebee’s which definitely shows that in the current economic crisis, we are definitely not ‘all in it together’. Chris Hedges is a powerful left-wing American journalist and broadcaster. I think he might be an ordained Presbyterian minister. Certainly his father was, before he was thrown out by his congregation for backing gay rights. This was obviously at a time when the gay rights movement was just beginning and still massively controversial. Hedge’s himself was one of the few journalists to cover the wars in Central America in the 1980s from the front line, and he has talked about the atrocities committed by Fascist groups like the Contras in Nicaragua. This were the same Fascist death squads and torturers to whom Reagan sold arms and provided other aid, while allowing them to finance their campaigns of terror by exporting cocaine to America. Where it helped further devastate desperately poor Black Americans. The same butchers Reagan declared were the ‘moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers’. Some patriotic Americans could feel their country was being insulted. Other left-wingers might be more worried that it’s true.

A few days ago the YouTube channel devoted to him and his analysis of capitalism and contemporary politics got hold of a leaked memo from Applebee’s. We don’t have it in this country, but I gather that it’s a chain of restaurants across the Pond. The memo talked about using the current crisis, with petrol prices rising and inflation expected to explode generally, as an opportunity for treating people badly. ‘Because their desperate’.

This is grubby, and I realise that not all businesses are like it. But this is the predatory face of capitalism, and unfortunately it’s companies like this that are bankrolling the political parties on both sides of the Atlantic. The right regard capitalism as patriotic, but there is nothing patriotic about this. It’s anti-social profiteering, pure and simple.

We need to end corporate donations in politics, and drive through legislation to protect workers and consumers from such cynical exploitation.

GB News Running Down NHS Ready for Privatisation

February 21, 2022

One of my criticisms of mad right-wing YouTuber Alex Belfield is that he’s a supporter of NHS privatisation. He seems to believe that selling it off will somehow make it cheaper and more efficient. He doesn’t recognise, nor at least he doesn’t admit to recognising, that it’s the piecemeal privatisation of the health service and its opening up to private healthcare providers that has, with over a decade of Tory cuts, made the health service less efficient and increased administration costs. Nor does he tell his viewers that if the health service is privatised, it will be funded instead the American way – through private health insurance. Which 20 per cent of Americans couldn’t afford until Obamacare lowered that percentage. Every year, 50,000 Americans die because they can’t afford their medical treatment. And medical fees are either the leading cause or the second leading cause of bankruptcy in the Land of the Free.

Well, Belfield got suspended for a fortnight and has now vanished behind a paywall over at Ustreme after being factchecked about Covid and one or two other complaints. But now it seems that GB News, the Murdoch alternative to the ‘wet and woke’ BBC is getting in on the act of pushing for the health service’s privatisation.

Yesterday their presenter Nana Akua posted a video with the darling title ‘The NHS Is A Total Rip-Off’, in which she started with the claim that the health service wasn’t free and that, per month, private healthcare was probably cheaper. She then went on to say that there were six NHS executive earning over £150,000. Her video was accompanied by a similar one in which Calvin Robinson declared that the NHS was full of ‘bloat and waste’. Of course it all comes from the time-worn Tory playbook. This maintains that the health service, like every other nationalised industry, is wasteful and needs to have its funding cut in order to make it lean and efficient. As part of this drive for increased efficiency, it must be opened up to private industry, who are automatically better than state run enterprises. Except they’re not, and this is all a pack of lies and half truths.

Britain actually spends less on its health service than many other countries, including Germany and America, which is why it’s in such a state. In fact the privatisation has increased administration costs so that they’re heading up to the level of private American companies at 24 per cent. Private healthcare isn’t better – it’s worse. It’s fine for those, who are in reasonably good health, but it is not set up to treat the disabled or those with long term conditions. They are not profitable patients. As a result, private hospitals are smaller than NHS. Blair believed that the system adopted by the American healthcare giant, Kaiser Permanente, was more efficient and tried to remodel the NHS on it. Kaiser Permanente weren’t, and rather than increasing patient choice, the need to send patients to the cheapest hospitals and clinics for treatment has resulted in less choice, contrary to Thatcherite dogma. But the privatisation of the NHS is backed by big donations given to the parties by the companies seeking a bit of NHS action. And it has the full backing of Rupert Murdoch. Hence Akua and Robinson now coming out in favour of it.

As for the salaries of senior NHS staff, there’s a double standard going on here. We are deliberately not being told the salaries of the executives and managers of the healthcare companies seeking to take over after the NHS is privatised. This is common Tory practice. They deliberately made it easy for the private companies to bid against the NHS by forcing the health service to publish its accounts and costs while keeping those of the private companies secret. Because it’s ‘commercially sensitive’ you see. How convenient.

If GB News and the Tories have their way, Brits will end up having to pay for their healthcare with all consequent poverty, ill health and hardship attendant with the American for-profit system. But it’ll make Murdoch and the chief executives of the private healthcare companies rich, along with venal politicians looking for their donations.

Don’t believe the lies. Back a nationalised NHS and get rid of GB News.

Commons Speaker Puts Blustering Johnson in his Place

November 18, 2021

One of the clips going round the internet yesterday was of our shambolic, blustering excuse of a Prime Minister being very firmly put in his place by the Speaker of the House of Commons. The mad right-winger Alex Belfield has put this video of the incident up on his channel on YouTube. Belfield is a right-wing Tory himself, who despises Johnson because of the lockdown. Belfield seems to believe it’s doing more harm than good and should be lifted. I really don’t agree with that attitude as I have absolutely no doubt that it is saving lives, and would have saved even more if Johnson had imposed it earlier. But Johnson was listening to Dominic Cummings and other nutters with discredited and dangerous theories about herd immunity. However, I have absolutely no problem about playing this clip. I don’t care if it does come from Belfield, it still shows the obnoxious clown being rightly humiliated.

The video shows Starmer, for once in his wretched leadership, actually making valid points and landing a few good blows on Johnson. He was talking about the Tories’ corruption and Johnson’s awarding of contracts to firms run by his friends. This was too much for Bozo, who started blustering and accused Starmer of misconduct. At which point the Speaker intervenes and criticises him for the accusation. Johnson is either to supply evidence to support it or withdraw it. Johnson doesn’t, but continues blustering about misconduct. At which point the Speaker states that the debate is becoming too heated.

Put simply, it shows that Johnson has absolutely no answer to the accusation. None whatever. He’s as guilty as sin, and can only defend himself through false accusations of misconduct. Not that I believe Starmer would be any different if he was in power. Starmer’s a Blairite, and Blair’s government was notorious for its sleaze, with firms granted contracts and their chief executives positions in government in return for donations. Starmer already wants to sideline ordinary members in favour of corporate donations as the source of the party’s funding. So on this issue, I don’t see any real difference between the two. I like the way Johnson looks bad, but have a problem in that it also makes Starmer look far better than he is. This is a altercation which I wish both would have lost.

Stunning Result for Starmer as Labour Come Third in By-Election

October 26, 2021

Is this the type of electoral success Starmer is trying to tell us all will sweep Labour into government and himself into No. 10? Labour came third behind the Tories in the Newark and Sherwood by-election. Labour got 16.7 per cent of the vote, the Tories 17 per cent, but the seat was taken by an independent, who got 66 per cent of the vote. Starmer may be surprised at the result, as he seems massively deluded to the point that the declares Labour just scraping in as a major victory and endorsement of his leadership, but you could have predicted the result. How? Because Starmer is a Blairite, and this is how a large part of the British electorate acted in defiance of Blair and the Tories.

Blairism is just Thatcherism taken up by the left. As Blair sought to purge the party of any awkward left-wing policies, these were instead taken up by single issue activist groups outside parliament. And one of the issues the British people feel most strongly about is the closure of their local hospitals. Unfortunately, the Private Finance Initiative means that any hospitals built through such public-private partnerships are more expensive than would be the case if they were funded directly through government. As a result, the hospitals built under the scheme are smaller. And for those built, existing hospitals had to be closed. Blair tried doing this to a much-loved local hospital up in the midlands. I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the exact constituency. What I do remember is that the local people weren’t pleased. And neither were the staff at said hospital. In fact, they were so annoyed that they formed a political party with the aim of saving the hospital. One of the hospital doctors stood as their candidate in the election.

And they won.

Which also had the positive effect of embarrassing and annoying Blair, who poured scorn on the whole idea only to find his own MP out on their ear.

This is what will happen again if Starmer and the Blairites retain control of the Labour party.

Mike’s article about this grotty defeat also quotes from an article in the Morning Star, warning left-wingers that any success Starmer has will be made through a rejection of socialism and a genuine progressive political agenda. Starmer wants left-wing Labour members to vote against their own political ideals. And if Starmer is successful in purging the party and political system of socialism, it will be the coming generations that will be most harmed.

Mike therefore asks why people would vote for a party that doesn’t do what they want?

It’s a good question. I’m hoping that there’s a way the left can make a comeback from the leadership’s grossly anti-democratic attempts to keep them out of power permanently. But I also think that if Starmer and the other Blairites carry on, people will start looking at alternative groups and parties promoting goals that once upon a time Labour would have stood for. Like defending the NHS. I don’t trust Starmer to do it, and expect that as soon as private healthcare companies start sponsoring Labour, like they did Blair, he’ll suddenly be all for privatising it. There is, however, or was, a specific party set up to defend it – the NHS Action Party. If Starmer’s Labour doesn’t defend the NHS, then I suspect that people will start embarrassing him by voting for it, or parties like it, instead.

Just as they did so against Blair, and just as they did against Starmer and Johnson in Newark and Sherwood.

Cassetteboi versus Boris Johnson

October 10, 2021

Cassetteboi are a group of merry pranksters, who take clips of politicians, celebrities and other public figures and edit them so that they appear to say something amusingly insane. One of my faves is the video they made taking the mick out The Apprentice. This began with the announcer stating that Alan Sugar was the self-made millionaire who sold Amstrad from the boot of a car for £8 before getting funnier. Boris Johnson has been one of their targets for years, starting when he was mayor of London. Now they’ve released yet another video lampooning him which contains a high dose of their usual satire. Johnsons word’s have a rhythm to which a beat has been added so that it’s a song or a chant. It begins

‘If you live in Britain today/ I feel sorry for you son/ There are 99 problems/ and I can’t fix one.’

It then goes to sing about the way there is no petrol nor goods on the shelf in the supermarket, the rich aren’t paying their way and Boris’ mates in industry are giving him large donations for government contracts. This goes along with the other issues, such as the £20 benefit uplift being taken away along with free school meals, test and trace not working along with Johnson’s utterly incompetent handling of Brexit and the Covid crisis. He didn’t attend the briefings because he was too busy divorcing his wife, and the song notes that despite Johnson trying to pretend the disease isn’t still around, over a hundred people are dying a day.

The song concludes:

‘If you live in Britain today/ I feel sorry for you son/ There are 99 problems/ And I’m number one!’

Is Keef Stalin Planning to Lose the Next Election So Streeting Can Be the New Blair?

October 1, 2021

It’s a horrifying thought, but that’s what this fortnight’s edition of Private Eye suggests in their piece, ‘Project Keir’ in the ‘H.P. Sauce’ column on page 14. They speculate that Starmer is deliberately planning to lose the next election so that he will be replaced by Wes Streeting, who will win the following election. He seems himself as the new Neil Kinnock, who lost his election but prepared the way for the success of Tony Blair. The article runs

“Don’t let anyone tell you that this is a two-term project,” shadow minister Wes Streeting told moderate group Labour First at his party’s conference last weekend. This phrase is familiar to the party’s right: a two-term project would mean Keir Starmer losing the next election but his sacrifice clearing the way for a properly moderate leader.

It was an acknowledgment that many on Labour’s right – including some in Starmer’s office – believe the leader’s focus on fixing Labour’s internal selections might not impress voters but will clear out the hard left, subdue the soft left and prepare the ground for the only way they believe Labour can win: Starmer must be a “Kinnock”, who loses elections but clears the way for a Blair figure who ultimately wins.” The rest of the article describes how Keef and his minions are already in talks with various big businesses. Well, Starmer is a Blairite, and Blair became notorious for granting favours to big corporations, including seats in government, in return for donations.

Before I start critiquing the article proper, look at the bias in its writing. Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are ‘hard left’. Labour First is ‘moderate’. Not so. Jeremy Corbyn is actually very traditional Old Labour: a mixed economy, strong welfare state, properly nationalised and funded NHS, and strong trade unions. He wants the nationalisation of the utilities and the railways, which was the social democratic consensus, accepted by both Labour and the Tories, from 1945 to 1979 and the election of Maggie Thatcher. This is far less than the demands for further nationalisation from the real communist and Trotskyite left, who sneer at reformist socialist politicians like Corbyn. And Labour First is not remotely moderate. It’s far right in the same way Blair was far right. Blair was further right than the Tories in many issues. The Conservatives had tried taking schools out of the control of the LEAs, the precursors of Blair’s academies, found that they didn’t work and duly binned them. Blair took the idea out of the bin and then expanded it. He also went much further in privatising the NHS than the Tories dared. At the 2008 elections Cameron pretended to be further left than Blair in order to win. I think this lost him votes from traditional hard right Tory voters, but unfortunately it did give him the keys to 10 Downing Street. And we’ve been suffering ever since.

This scheme all depends on several factors, one of which is whether Starmer truly realises he’s going to lose the next election. He certainly doesn’t seem like it. Despite losing a whole series of local authorities and constituencies, including the north, he seems determined to present what few seats Labour did retain up north as stunning victories. In fact in many of them Labour only managed to scrape in. Now I think Starmer really is hoping that Tory voters, along with big business and the media, will turn to him, or his version of the Labour party, when they get sick of the Tories and their incompetence. But that’s a dangerous assumption. Blair was able to win over Murdoch and the majority of the press, but the Daily Mail held on to its wretched principles and carried on supporting the Tories. There is no guarantee that the British public, media and business will embrace Streeting if Labour does lose the next election and Starmer makes way for him. And even if Streeting did win the following election, it would probably be by a smaller number of people voting than actually voted in the 2019 election. At the 2017 election, Corbyn lost with a higher number of people voting for him than Blair did when he won. It’s been forgotten that when Blair was in power, people drifted away from Labour en masse and that there was a general feeling of alienation and disenfranchisement. People didn’t feel the parties represented them and some of them stopped voting. This will happen again, even if Streeting or someone like him wins.

And its dangerous, because when people feel alienated from supposedly democratic parties, they turn to the real extremists, the Communists or Fascists. Both of those are pretty much dead at the moment, despite the screams about Corbyn, but they could well revive, if under a less extreme guise, like UKIP or the Brexit party at the elections a few years ago.

My own guess is that such a plan would destroy Labour, at least as a mass party. Starmer treats the rank and file members with contempt, and as result they’re leaving. Without their membership subscriptions, Labour is facing bankruptcy. Starmer has also driven away the baker’s union, BFAWU, so he went get any money from that union either. If he drives further unions away, which he well might, that could provoke an even worse financial crisis. He needs those donations from big business, but there’s no guarantee he’ll get them.

Starmer’s slowly turning Labour into a minor party with little funding and small membership, also so he can appeal to business and hopefully get his rear end, or Streetings into power. It’s a truly risky strategy, and could kill the party long before either he or Streeting get anywhere close.

And as they’re doing this, they’re damaging democracy by ignoring the electorate and its wishes in favour of big business. A few years ago a report by Harvard University concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy because of this. Instead it was a plutocracy or something like it, government by the rich.

Which is exactly what Starmer will bring in here.

Cartoon on the People Starmer Likes and Dislikes

September 9, 2021

I’ve been putting up various cartoons I’ve drawn which express my anger at certain political issues, and particularly the anti-democratic and destructive current Labour leadership. Starmer and his allies, like General Secretary David Evans, seem determined to purge the party of any socialist content as well as attack its historic connections with the trade unions. All this is being done to turn it into another Tory party. The results have been disastrous. Labour took a hammering at the council elections, and when it has won, it’s been by a very bare margin. But Starmer and the Blairites carry on, firmly convinced that it will lead them to victory after they have purged the party of all those wretched ‘anti-Semites’ and ‘Trots’.

I got so annoyed with Starmer and his mercenary leadership that I drew this cartoon expressing my view of who Keef Stalin likes and who he doesn’t. What he likes is big corporate donations, while standing behind him are Blair and Thatcher. And the people he likes are the Israel lobby, right-wing journalists and big business.

The peeps he doesn’t like – who I’ve put in a dock marked ‘purged’ are non-Zionist Jews, Muslims, Blacks and the working class. Because most of the people being purged for anti-Semitism are Jewish critics of Israel. Muslims are experiencing rising islamophobia in the party, while Starmer has ignored the instances of bullying by members of the right-wing apparat against Black MPs and activists, like Diane Abbott. As for the working class, the Blairites never had any time for them. They were too keen chasing middle class Tory voters in swing constituencies. One of the women Stalin has taken on as his advisor also worked for Blair, and advised him to ignore the ‘underserving poor’. Thus Starmer and his fellows see the working people who physically build and make this country. And, of course, he hates socialists. I know some of the people really don’t look like who they’re meant to represent, but I hope you’ll forgive this.

Starmer’s a disaster, and the more he tries to tighten his grip and purge people, the further down the polls he goes. He must go.

Excellent! Motion Coming Before Bristol South Labour Party Condemning Academies

June 10, 2021

Next week Bristol South Labour constituency Labour party is holding its monthly meeting. One of the issues to be discussed is a motion that’s already been passed by the Knowle branch condemning the academy schools and Ofsted. The introduction to this motion runs

Knowle Ward believes that the purpose of education is to enable our  children to develop an informed and independent voice, to prove to  students that their lives are valuable, and that the achievements of  each and every school, college and university leaver in the country, at  whatever level, shall have a genuine and lasting meaning. To this end  we call upon the leadership of the party to seize the initiative, and  include in its election manifesto the replacement of the privatised  Academy system with a return to a local control of education policy,  the replacement of OFSTED with a politically independent system of  inspection, a new determination that sport, music, drama and art be  seen as fundamental to a successful education, and, crucially, to insist  that each of our communities shall have its own, independent and  single place of learning, representing the needs of that community,  and celebrating its particular identity.

I fundamentally and wholeheartedly support this motion, and intend to vote for it at the meeting. The academies are a massive fraud and waste of public money. Indeed there’s a book published about them, when Tory Tony Blair was introducing the wretched things, that called them exactly that: The Great Academy Fraud. They are no more successful than ordinary state schools are, if those state schools had the millions spent on them that the academies have had. There have been issues with the educational content taught in those schools, such as Creationism and very hard-line, narrow and intolerantly religious norms in some Muslim schools. Other problems include very repressive discipline that has humiiated school children. For example, children have soiled themselves when they have been refused permission to use the toilet and girls have not been allowed to change their sanitary towels. Quite often their academic achievements have been at the expense of less intelligent children, or kids with behavioural problems. They find reasons to exclude them while keeping the more intelligent and disciplined children. It really is selective education.

As for the recognition that sport, music, drama and art also form a fundamental part of education, this should be automatically accepted as true. Since the educational reforms of the 19th century it was recognised that proper education meant a broad, humanistic education that should cultivate all areas of the minds and characters of the developing sprogs. Sport was included in the curriculum along with PE because children’s physical health is important, and organised sport is supposed to be character-building. But the humanities have been sidelined as successive governments have pushed the STEM subjects at their expense. Now there are warnings that this short-sighted policy is actually a serious danger to Britain’s cultural industries.

It’s about time the academy chains were closed down. They were a failure when Thatcher and Kenneth Baker tried introducing them in the 1980s. The Tories were actually closing them down, but Blair fished them out of the dustbin of crappy neoliberal ideas, revamped them, and set them off again. And children’s education has suffered as a result. Schools need to be brought back under local authority control.

But I have no doubt that this will be opposed by Starmer and the Blairite bureaucracy, as it’s a Tory policy so it must be right. And besides, there’s all that money to be made from corporate donations.

So expect anyone supporting this to be accused once again of being a Trotskyite or Commie.

Does Starmer’s ‘Pro-Business’ Mean ‘Anti-Workers?’

February 11, 2021

Okay, I might be jumping the gun here, but I came across a video from the awesome Novara Media. I haven’t watched it, so this might be just me showing my prejudice. I just looked at the video’s title, which seemed to say everything. I can’t remember it precisely, but it was something on the lines of Starmer declaring that Labour would be ‘pro-business’.

This should set alarm bells ringing, because when a politico talks about being ‘pro-business’ he always, but always means the same thing: further tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and privatisation on the grounds that this will set the forces of private enterprise free and provide financial incentives for the rich to invest and expand their businesses and economy. For ordinary people it means low wages, more welfare cuts and the destruction of workers’ rights in order to get people off state support and making the labour market fluid, so employers can hire and fire at will without going through all the pesky business of negotiations with trade unions and industrial tribunals.

That’s what ‘pro-business’ meant under the Tories, and that’s what it was also under New Labour. With the addition that under New Labour, big business was further rewarded through the appointment of leading management to positions in government as part of the corporate capture of the state.

I might be wrong here, but if Starmer has made noises about being ‘pro-business’, it means he’s going back to the Blairite policies of awarding government posts to big business in exchange for corporate donations, and making the rich even richer at the expense of Britain’s working people.

‘I’: British Government Considering Solar Power Satellites

November 17, 2020

A bit more space technology news now. The weekend edition of the I, for Saturday 14th November 2020 carried a piece by Tom Bawden, ‘The final frontier for energy’ with the subtitle ‘Revealed: the UK is supporting a plan to create a giant solar power station in space’. The article ran

Millions of British homes could be powered by a giant solar power station 24,000 miles up in space within three decades, under proposals being considered by the government.

Under the plan, a system of five huge satellites – each more than a mile wide, covered in solar panels and weighing several thousand tons – would deliver laser beams of energy down to Earth.

These would provide up to 15 per cent of the country’s electricity supply by 2050, enough to power four million households – with the first space energy expected to be delivered by 2040. Each satellite would be made from tens of thousands of small modules, propelled into space through 200 separate rocket launches, and then assembled by robots.

The satellites would use thousands of mirrors to concentrate the sunlight on to the solar panels, which would be converted into high frequency radio waves. These would be beamed to a receiving antenna on the Earth, converted into electricity and delivered to our homes.

While the prospect of a solar space station beaming energy into our homes might seem outlandish, advocates are hopeful it can be done. The Government and the UK Space Agency are taking the technology extremely seriously, believing it could play a crucial role in helping the country to fulfil its promise of becoming carbon neutral – or net zero – by 2050, while keeping the lights on.

They have appointed the engineering consultancy Frazer-Nash to look into the technical and economic feasibility and it will report back next year.

“Solar space stations may sound like science fiction, but they could be a game-changing new source of energy for the UK and the rest of the world,” the science minister, Amanda Solloway, said.

“This pioneering study will help shine a light on the possibilities for a space-based solar power system which, if successful, could play an important role in reducing our emissions and meeting the UK’s ambitious climate-change targets,” she said.

Martin Soltau, of Frazer-Nash, who is leading the feasibility study, said: “This technology is really exciting and could be a real force for good. It has the potential to transform the energy market and make the net-zero target achievable – and from an engineering perspective it looks feasible.”

Previous analysis by other researchers on economic viability suggests space solar could be “competitive” with existing methods of electricity generation but that will need to be independently assessed, Mr Soltau said.

If the UK is to become net zero it needs to find a green source of energy that is totally dependable because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun definitely doesn’t always shine.

This is where solar space comes in, with its panels sufficiently much closer to the sun that they are not blighted by clouds and darkness.

“This would provide a baseload of energy 24/7 and 365 days a year – and has a fuel supply for the next five billion years,” said Mr Soltau, referring to the predicted date of the sun’s eventual demise.

Until recently, this project really would have been a pipe dream – but two developments mean it is now a realistic prospect, Mr Soltau says.

The first is the new generation of reusable rockets, such as the Falcon 9 launcher from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which mean satellites can be sent into space far more cheaply.

The cost of launching objects into low Earth orbit has gone from about $20,000 (£15,000) a kilogram in the early 2000s to less $3,000 now – and looks to fall below $1,000 in the coming years, he says.

At the same time, solar panels are much cheaper and more than three times as efficient as they were in the 1990s, meaning far fewer need to be sent into orbit to produce the same amount of energy.

Mr Soltau is hopeful, although by no means certain, that his study will find the technology to be feasible in economic and engineering terms – with the technology looking like it’s on track.

The five satellite solar power station system envisaged by the Government will probably cost more than £10bn – and potentially quite a lot more – more than the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, which would produce roughly similar amounts of electricity, is expected to cost about £30bn, including decommissioning, Mr Soltau points out.

When all is said and done, there’s no getting away from the fact that building a satellite of that size and complexity in orbit is a mindboggling task. But it could well be feasible.

The article was accompanied by this diagram.

The captions read

  1. Solar reflectors: Orientation of satellite with respect to the Sun controlled to constantly reflect sunlight onto the solar power array below.
  2. Solar panels and transmitters: Approximately 60,000 layers of solar panels that collect the sunlight from the reflectors, and convert this to transmit high frequency radio waves.
  3. Power transmission: High frequency radio wave transmission from satellite to receiver on ground.
  4. Ground station: approximately 5k in diameter rectenna (a special type of receiving antenna that is used for converting electromagnetic energy into direct current (DC) electricity), generating 2 gigawatts of power enough for 2 million people at peak demand.

The solar reflectors are the objects which look rather like DVDs/CDs. The box at the top of the diagram gives the heights of a few other objects for comparison.

The ISS – 110m

The London Shard – 310m

The Burj Khalifa – 830m

The Cassiopeia solar satellite 1,700m.

The use of solar power satellites as a source of cheap, green energy was proposed decades ago, way back when I was at school in the 1970s. I first read about it in the Usborne Book of the Future. I don’t doubt that everything in the article is correct, and that the construction of such satellites would be comparable in price, or even possibly cheaper, than conventional terrestrial engineering projects. I went to a symposium on the popular commercialisation space at the headquarters of the British Interplanetary Society way back at the beginning of this century. One of the speakers was an engineer, who stated that the construction of space stations, including space hotels, was actually comparable in cost to building a tower block here on Earth. There was just a difference in attitude. Although comparable in cost, such space stations were viewed as prohibitively expensive compared to similar terrestrial structures.

Apart from the expense involved, the other problem solar power satellites have is the method of transmission. All the previous systems I’ve seen beamed the power back to Earth as microwaves, which means that there is a possible danger from cancer. The use of laser beams might be a way round that, but I still wonder what the health and environmental impact would be, especially if the receiving station is around 5 km long.

I also wonder if the project would ever be able to overcome the opposition of vested interests, such as the nuclear and fossil fuel industries. One of the reasons the Trump government has been so keen to repeal environmental legislation and put in place measures to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job, is because the Republican party receives very generous funding from the oil industry, and particularly the Koch brothers. And there are plenty of Tory MPs who also possess links to big oil.

At the moment this looks like a piece of industry PR material. It’s an interesting idea, and I’ve no doubt that it’s factually correct, but given the resistance of the British establishment to new ideas, and especially those which might involve government expenditure, I have grave doubts about whether it will actually ever become a reality. Fossil fuels might be destroying the planet, but there are enough people on the right who don’t believe that’s happening and who get a very tidy profit from it, that I can see the oil industry being promoted against such projects for decades to come.