Monday, April 27, 2015

UKIP Playing Politics with Manston?

Manston Airport – A Statement – From Sir Roger Gale

“I have received, in today`s post, a letter sent by UKIP`s “Transport Spokesman”, Ms. Seymour, headed “Important information about the future of Manston Airport”.

This communication asserts that “UKIP is unshakeable in its support for Manston” and that “David Cameron gave his support to the Gloag, Cartner, Musgrave Group who bought the site for just £1.”

As one who has been right at the centre of the proposed closure of Manston I am better placed than most to say that UKIP`s statement is a blatant lie.  Assuming that this document has been approved by “Bandwagon Farage” it is also, coming from someone who aspires to `leadership`, a disgrace.

First, Messrs. Cartner and Musgrave were not involved in the purchase, by the SNP supporting Ms. Gloag, of Manston for £1.  Only a party totally ill-informed about Manston Airport could have made such an elementary mistake.

Second, neither Farage nor any of his team have played any constructive part  in the Save Manston campaign – a fact that is well known to the campaign`s real and determined supporters.

From the time that I first raised the issue at Prime Minister`s Question Time months ago to date the Prime Minister has been, personally and through his Cabinet Ministers, nothing but wholly supportive of the efforts of myself, Laura Sandys and more recently Craig Mackinlay, to get Manston re-opened as an airport.  Indeed, it was the Prime Minister who, in an effort to unblock the Thanet District Council logjam, authorised the commissioning, by the Department of Transport, of the Price Waterhouse Inquiry.

The stumbling block has been the passing of a binding resolution, by Thanet Council`s Labour Group in October 2014, not to pursue a Compulsory Purchase Order funded by RiverOak.  The Conservative Group,  seeking election to Thanet Council, are pledged to instigate the CPO immediately upon taking control of TDC  - which gives the lie, also, to Ms. Seymour`s claim that “The only party committed to a compulsory purchase order is UKIP”.

I have tried, stoically, to keep party-politics out of the Manston issue but I cannot ignore such a blatantly dishonest campaign gimmick that could, ultimately, damage a cause in which I passionately believe.

I call upon Farage, therefore, to publicly disown and withdraw the assertions that he and his party have made in this letter and, recently, in a paid-for advertisement in the local press.  I repeat, it is my informed view  that he has to date contributed nothing to the Save Manston campaign whatsoever.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

1812 All Over Again?

Tim Marshall, who many readers will recall as Sky News Foreign Editor, asked me to write a guest piece for his weblog, The What and the Why, this week and for interest, I'm sharing it here, because it has an indirect bearing on the future of Thanet, as much as anywhere else.

Black leather jackets and jeans. A noisy army of young men on the streets of Istanbul, hawking and hustling on street corners, outside cafes and in between the traffic. It might have been Tunis or Beirut but the impression it left on me was very much the same.

I was in Istanbul to speak at A Harvard Business Review conference on the future and The Internet of Things; a hot topic these days, attracting billions of dollars of investment from big industry names like IBM, Google, Intel and GE.

After the talk, I remarked to the FT’s Jonathan Margolis, that I felt the older industrial economies of the West were sleep-walking into ‘An 1812 Moment’ of potential socio-industrial turmoil and he suggested I share the argument.

In Britain, at the beginning of the 19th century, there was a dramatic movement of the population; focusing the new industrial workforce from the land, into the new cities as the means of production for the cotton industry, was rapidly centralised in the new factories; ‘The Dark Satanic Mills’ described by the poet William Blake, with consequences that could still be felt in the Britain of the 1930s and described by George Orwell in ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’.

1812 was a pivotal moment marking a contemporary, anti-technology revolt, the Luddite movement, when workers, upset with a reduction in wages and the use of un-apprenticed workmen, attacked factories and machines.

But the move towards the first and second industrial revolutions which gave us Karl Marx, Thomas Edison, Keynes, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates was unstoppable and delivered the great but fading industrial economies of today.

However, what few economists and fewer politicians appear to have noticed, is that 2008 not only delivered a global recession but marked the end of the second industrial revolution and the start of the third. Cloud computing has placed practically infinite computing power and storage and a host of sophisticated tools and applications at everyone’s disposal, on a pay as you go basis for those lucky enough to live in the developed world and new characters such as Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos, Thomas Piketty and Mark Zuckerberg have appeared with new ideas.

Equally, new ways of doing business arrived in quick succession, like Uber, AirBnB and Etsy, which are predicated on a distributed App-economy eliminating the need for business centralisation and the 200 year-old traditional model of the value chain.

And at the beginning of this decade a series of technologies started to emerge and converge, in such a rapid and disruptive fashion, that the inward-looking and centralised flow of the workforce in cities like London and Istanbul, may soon be thrown into reverse gear, as the employment proposition evolves in a radical direction and even disappears for large parts of the population.

Economies around Europe and surrounding the Mediterranean that are authoritarian, centralised or hierarchical in their business models face swift disruption and disintermediation and we've witnessed the first social convulsions with both the Arab Spring and politically desperate attempts to control and censor social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook.

When’ Lights-out’ factories and distribution centres can be cost-effectively automated, cheap 3D printers connected to the Internet and the Cloud can make new ‘cottage’ industries both practical and profitable, where do all the thousands of unskilled and barely educated young men and young women too, go to find work in the urban sprawl of five years’ time?

In the larger northern European and EU economies the debate surrounds the delivery of skills and education to stimulate new service and technical jobs around entirely new industries, in much the same way that the arrival of the motor-car in the early 1900's and the Internet in the 1990’s created a thriving surrounding infrastructure.

However, the problem remains much the same, whether you are exploring it from London, Athens or Istanbul. Most of the business productivity gains of the last twenty years have been achieved by replacing people with technology and post-2008, some leading economists, noted to their alarm, that this process accelerated on both sides of the Atlantic.

In poorer economies with a young, broadly unskilled and rapidly growing population, this should be a cause for alarm and only this week, Sky News reported 10,000, mostly young men and economic migrants, successfully crossing the Mediterranean from Africa to Italy.

China, which is adding a mega city the size of  London every two years, has witnessed a dramatic migration to its new cities, has already seen business lay-off some eleven million factory workers, as machines can make most products now, faster, cheaper, more reliably and with greater profitability than human workers. By 2030, eighteen cities will have more than twenty million inhabitants and London will be among them

With over 90% of that urban growth will occur in developing countries, the statistics beg the question of how these large societies will be able to cope when their 2nd industrial revolution methods of production, management and employment are swept aside and disintermediated, in much the same manner as Amazon is devastating the retail business and Uber is disrupting the conventional taxi business globally.

Asked how he went bankrupt, the novelist Ernest Hemingway, thought for a moment and then replied, ‘Slowly and then suddenly.’

As a technologist and a ‘Strategic Futurist’ I find myself gazing at a very large and complex jigsaw puzzle which is not quite complete; just missing a handful of small pieces and which from a technical perspective surround industry standards, access and security.

Once that final, complex jigsaw piece of technology convergence is put in place, an uncomfortable period of disruption is likely to happen quite rapidly in societies, that much like the quote from Ernest Hemingway, are broadly unprepared for the impact of sudden political, technological and economic change. I’m reminded of a warning I wrote in the opening paragraph of a story for The Observer Newspaper fifteen years ago as we approached the moment between the second and third industrial revolutions:

‘Welcome to the aftermath of the old economy. In the race between Europe's new 'just-in-time, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week' super-states, we are in danger of losing our ability to manage the expectations of an increasingly wired society. Technology can help fulfill our ambitions, but it doesn't do much for people who can't afford ambition.’

How, I added: ‘Facing the prospect of a lost generation, how do governments plan to re-engineer the workforce to meet the demands of a global networked economy?’

Fifteen years further on the solution for many politicians still remains to ignore the lessons of history and hope for the best.?

First published on: Tim Marshall's The What and the Why weblog. April 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Manston Airport – Search and Rescue Can Come Home

The way is clear for Search and rescue to return to a re-opened Manston Airport.  That is the real significance of the announcement made yesterday by the minister of state for Aviation, John Hayes, during his visit to Thanet yesterday, says North Thanet`s Roger Gale.

“It is a pity that the real issue was buried under a synthetic and media-generated political “row” says Gale.

“The Minister responsible for the Coastguard Service has approved a one-year contract for Bristows to operate from Lydd while discussions relating to the future of Manston continue. He has made it plain that during that time there will be no capital investment in new SAR facilities, paving the way for a swift return to the preferred operating base, Manston, as soon as the airport is once again operational.  That speaks volumes. It demonstrates the faith that a significant and reputable company, Bristows, has in Manston and it states very clearly the importance that the Prime Minister and the Transport Department have placed upon Manston as a strategic national asset – because this move has the full backing of Number 10. This is part of a process that those of us who really support Manston have been engaged in for months and it has nothing to do with the General or council Elections at all. “

Commenting on the status of the RiverOak indemnity package Roger Gale has added:

“The Minister made it plain that, based upon the indications that he has received and the contents of a letter sent to him by the Chief Executive of RiverOak, Steve DeNardo, yesterday, he is confident in saying, with the full weight of Ministerial Office, that he is satisfied that there will be no risk to the Thanet Council taxpayers in proceeding to a Compulsory Purchase Order.

I have a copy of that letter in front of me and in it Mr. DeNardo says:

“We instructed our solicitors, Wragge, Lawrence Graham, to draft an indemnity agreement between Thanet District Council and RiverOak to cover all the Council`s risks. This was because we recognised that for both financial and political reasons it would be impossible for Thanet to carry any risk, however small and however remote. I can confirm that the indemnity agreement as drafted does meet those requirements.

RiverOak is a US registered company but prior to the signing of the indemnity agreement we will create a UK based and registered company, to be known as RiverOak Aviation, to go through the CPO process and take ownership of the airport if awarded. The same company will also hold all the appropriate CAA licenses.

In support of the CPO process RiverOak accept total responsibility for making the business case for the airport to the CPO inspector. In doing so we recognise that if we are unable to satisfy the Inspector as to the viability of our business plan we will lose the CPO and a significant amount of our own capital but it will have been done at no cost to Thanet.

To this end we are prepared to deposit up to £2,000,000 into a designated escrow account in the UK simultaneous upon the mutual signing of an indemnity agreement between RiverOak and Thanet District Council”

That is the basis upon which the Minister of State has felt it possible to say that there will be no risk to Thanet . I do not believe that the situation could now be clearer.

I have made it plain to the Leader of Thanet District Council that if she and her administration now proceed to instigate the CPO procedure then they will do so with the full and non-partisan backing that I have offered to date and to that end I am prepared to put my own political reputation on the line.

Further, the Leader of the Conservative Group on Thanet District Council, Bob Bayford, has indicated that on an equally non-partisan basis the Conservative Group will back the controlling Group and will share equal political responsibility for the decision.  I do not think that we can offer more and I hope and expect that reservations will be set to one side and that, on the basis of the Minister of State`s assurances, the process will now be allowed to immediately commence”.

Sir Roger Gale.

See earlier Bristow SAR story for background reading.