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Date published: 2011/07/11

Middle class control freaks try to stop Sainsbury's on Mill Road (permanent blog link)

The Cambridge News says:

More than 4,000 people have signed a petition opposing a new Sainsbury's store in Mill Road, Cambridge.

The chain says that other traders would not suffer if it took over the current Mickey Flynn's pool hall, arguing Tesco did not have an adverse impact when it arrived on the street in August 2009.

But some residents fear for the neighbourhood's independent shops and cosmopolitan character and have been adding their names to the petition.

Beverley Carpenter, co-ordinator of the Mill Road Society, said the Tesco store did have a negative effect on the area.

She said: "If we don't protect Mill Road it will become a clone town like the rest of Cambridge."
...
But Ms Carpenter said the location "couldn't really be worse" and raised concerns about the safety of cyclists coming over the railway bridge.

The opponents of Sainsbury's are the usual academic middle class suspects, who unfortunately dominate Cambridge, and so get their way far too often. Ironically, these people are super-educated (possibly over-educated) and yet it is they who are least capable of coping with change. They cannot even cope with life in the 20th century, never mind the 21st, as is exemplified by their blanket hatred of supermarkets.

Their arguments against Sainsbury's are totally vacuous. For example, whenever anyone wants to oppose any development anywhere in Cambridge, they trot out the pathetic emotional blackmail about the "safety of cyclists" (and/or children). There is no reason for this development to have any noticeable impact on safety.

If the independent shops are allegedly so great (and many are not) then they would have no problem competing with Sainsbury's. If the people of Mill Road boycott Sainsbury's then the store will fail. But rather than let ordinary people decide, the academic middle class control freaks think that they should be able to determine where ordinary people are allowed to shop.

Date published: 2011/07/08

Cambridge City Council has a failed consultation on consultations (permanent blog link)

The Cambridge City Council bizarrely held a consultation on consultations. Needless to say, this was not particularly well publicised, and in any case, only complete political anoraks would be interested in this, and so it is not very surprising that there were hardly any responses to this consultation. In particular, only three (!) residents responded.

If consultations were just used to seek information they would be a fine addition to democracy. But the problem with all governmental consultations is that they are taken to somehow be representative of public opinion, and almost always they are not. They are almost always hijacked by special interest pressure groups who have a strong opinion about the matter being consulted upon.

There are zillions of examples of this. For example, the last Labour government had a notorious consultation on GM crops, and, as was totally predictable and predicted, the consultation was completely hijacked by the usual academic middle class suspects who hate GM crops.

In Cambridge there was a notorious consultation (by the county, rather than the city) on whether to put proper cycle lanes on Gilbert Road and so remove parking for cars. (There is enough space for cars and cycle lanes but the politicians and bureaucrats never considered that option, it being far too much like common sense.) Initially they contacted the residents of Gilbert Road only, with other people having to somehow magically find out about the consultation. The council evidently expected the residents to support their plans, and when this turned out not to be the case, Plan B came into action.

The Cambridge Cycle Campaign (CCC) found out about the consultation (they have members who live on Gilbert Road) and they sent out an email asking all their members to stuff the consultation ballot box with pro-cycle-lane votes. The CCC has many more members than there are people who live on Gilbert Road, so they easily swamped the consultation process. And the county then conveniently took the result as representative of public opinion. Of course it was not. In particular it ignored 99% of the stakeholders in the outcome, in particular drivers (who are always ignored by the city and county councils) and also residents who live near but not on Gilbert Road.

This hijacking of consultations means that they are not an addition to democracy but are instead anti-democratic. They allow for unelected and so unaccountable groups, like the CCC, to impose their narrow partisan view on society.

One of the respondents to the consultation on consultations pointed this out: "Make it clear that consultations will not be deemed representative of public opinion". Well of course the politicians and bureaucrats are hardly going to admit that they are wasting tens of thousands of pounds of public money in a way which actually decreases democracy. So their laughable response to this was to claim that: "the Council's intention will be to carry out consultation in a way that does make the results as representative as possible." Given that this has never happened in the past, it is unlikely to happen in future. So we will continue to have consultations hijacked by special interest pressure groups.

The EU ruling elite hate GM crops (permanent blog link)

The BBC says:

Euro MPs have voted to give EU member states more flexibility to restrict or ban genetically modified crops on environmental or health grounds.

The draft legislation, still to be discussed by EU governments, would enable countries to go beyond the EU-wide mechanism for regulating GM crops.

Arguments about the safety of GM foods continue in many of the EU's 27 states.

The EU Commission had proposed that the EU should decide on approvals or bans on environmental or health grounds.

Currently a type of maize called MON 810 is the only GM food cultivated commercially in the EU.

But not everywhere - it is banned in six EU states: Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg.

A report approved by MEPs on Tuesday says member states "may adopt measures restricting or prohibiting the cultivation of all or particular GMOs [genetically modified organisms], in all or part of their territory, on the basis of grounds relating to the public interest.

"Those measures may be based on grounds relating to environmental or other legitimate factors such as socio-economic impacts."

It is fairly arbitrary which bits of law should be decided at EU level and which at national level. So sure, why not allow EU member states to have more restrictive rules for GM crops. But why this one way street? Why not also allow EU member states to have less restrictive rules for GM crops? It is pretty clear already that the health grounds for opposing GM crops are non-existent, and the so-called environmental ones are largely spurious as well (and could in many regards equally apply to non-GM crops).

Of course the real reason the EU ruling elite oppose GM crops, and have created a climate of anti-GM hysteria, is that the EU ruling elite are anti-corporate, in particular anti-US-corporate. Unfortunately, their anti-scientific babble to try and justify this mirrors the anti-scientific babble of the American right-wing nutters on other matters. Societies that turn their back on science for ideological reasons are societies that are heading downhill.

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