Always Worth Saying’s Question Time Review

Question Time 6th July 2023

The Panel:

Johnny Mercer (Conservative)
Bridget Phillipson (Labour)
Dale Vince (Ecotricity)
Kate Andrews (The Spectator)

Venue: Fleetwood

John Luther Mercer is a former Royal Artillery officer, risen to the rank of captain, who has served as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Plymouth Moor View since May 7, 2015. He is Minister of State for Veterans Affairs, a position he has held since October 2022 and also held from July to September 2022. His brief interregnum being the result of a Liz Truss sacking. The 41-year-old’s prior roles have included Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence People and Veterans.

In addition to his ministerial responsibilities, Mercer is also a member of the House of Commons Defence and Health Select Committees and serves as Chair for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health.

Before military academy at Sandhurst, Mr Mercer was educated privately at Eastbourne College (£42,000 per year) before interning in the City – his father was a banker.

Away from politics, Mercer has also worked in a non-executive role for a company that trains ex-military personnel for cybersecurity employment. Controversially it was revealed in 2019 that Johnny was paid £85,000 a year by Crucial Academy, a company of which he was a non-executive director, for a 20-hour-a-month job re-training those military veterans.

Johnny’s wife is the interesting (£43,000 per annum) Malvern College old girl Felicity (nee Cornelius) who often spouts on social media in defence of her husband. The loyal wife, her motives undiluted by personal gain, announces Mrs Truss ‘an imbecile’ for sacking her hubby. More recently, Labour supporting Twitter royalty Carol Vorderman is a ‘celebrity attack dog’ who is ‘inciting people to hate all Tories.’

Likewise, the loyal husband, committed to equality of opportunity, employs his wife purely on merit at the House of Commons as his Principal Secretary. A position which attracts a salary of between £35,000 and £40,000 per annum, paid by you.

Question one. With the NHS reaching 75, will it reach a hundred in its present form? It might not, chimed in La Bruce. Johnny Mercer thought it all complicated these days and there was a need for different thinking. Trends. How are we going to? It needs to be free at the point of use, he insisted.

Bridget mentioned record waiting lists. Because the Labour-supporting unions are on strike, perhaps? She preferred workforce reform. i.e. paying them more for doing less.

La Bruce referenced Tony Blair’s idea that patients should pay for treatment themselves but Bridget disagreed. It’s free access that has made the NHS so good, she said while managing to keep a straight face.

Squeaky Kate disputed that the NHS is the best in the world. It isn’t. This week in Westminster Abbey the great and the good (all of whom have private health care she could have added) had been praying to the NHS while waiting lists etc are an embarrassment. She suggested a ‘mixed system’ but didn’t define what that means. She hopes the health service won’t be the same at its centenary because it’s not good enough.

An audience member suggested NHS means No Health Service for many people.

Dale thought the NHS was underfunded and undervalued, but just by the Tories. The Tories are setting the NHS up to fail. Privatisation just doesn’t work. Water, rail, energy. Hold on. He’s in privatised energy.

Kate preferred to look at the numbers, we don’t compare well with other countries. The example she used was the survivability of heart attacks. What is health care if we aren’t getting good results?

The health care system isn’t on its knees, insisted Johnny Mercer, unlike Somalia, where it is, he added. If you need to see a GP you can in a day, he said, which is nonsense.

Although Bridget contradicted Johnny she wouldn’t commit to the pay increases that the unions are striking for, blaming the lack of funds on Mrs Truss ‘crashing the economy.’ Yawn.

Question 2 was about the government’s alleged climate apathy. Dale was the obvious person to come to first.

He said the government never were committed to the environment. He complained about our new coal mine in Cumbria and more development of the North Sea. He quoted the UN while hammering fossil fuels. Hmm. Drilling for gas is madness. Oh.

Dale Vince is a British entrepreneur primarily known as the founder of Ecotricity, a renewable energy company. Born on 29th August 1961, Vince has been a strong advocate for green energy and environmental sustainability.

According to my pupil, Mr A.I. Bot, before starting Ecotricity in 1995, Mr Vince led a low-impact off-the-grid lifestyle. Hmm. The company, now one of the leading green energy providers in the UK, was born out of his desire to create a kind of electricity that was both sustainable and environmentally friendly. Hmm.

Dale has been actively involved in various other green initiatives as well. He launched the Electric Highway, the UK’s first national network of electric car charging points. He also owns Forest Green Rovers football club, which he has turned into the world’s first vegan football club, emphasizing environmental consciousness in sports.

Apart from his business ventures (and getting Forest Green relegated last season), Mr Vince has made headlines for a legal battle over a divorce settlement and his public support for the Labour Party. His unique journey from living in a van to becoming a green energy tycoon has made him a notable figure in the environmental and business sectors. Hmmm.

Back in the capable hands of old cynic Mr AWS, a paragraph in Ecotricty’s company website catches the eye:

Dale Vince OBE is the founder of Ecotricity and a United Nations Climate Champion. Born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, in 1961, he left school at 15 with no qualifications and spent the next decade living on the road in a variety of unusual vehicles.

This is untrue.

Strangely, given the above claim, Mr Vince appears on a list of notable alumni of the University of Staffordshire which in Mr Vince’s day was the North Staffordshire Polytechnic. Sure enough, further investigation of the court case involving his ex-wife showed Mr Vince to be the proud owner of 9 O-levels. Aged 19 he was studying computer technology at poly – which is where he met his wife.

The company website also states,

In 2010, we launched green gas, making us the first energy company to offer a truly green dual fuel tariff and in 2013 we followed that up with 100% green electricity for all customers. By the end of 2014, Ecotricity was powering over 150,000 customers and providing the best customer service in the industry.

If not untrue, this is at least disingenuously worded, particularly regarding this unknown substance called ‘green’ gas and ‘truly green dual fuel’ ie gas and electricity.

Mr Vince’s one hundred and one directorships listed at Companies House include Ecotricty Biz Ltd. Official documents show the nature of their business activity to be the ‘trade of gas through mains.’

The most recently submitted accounts for Ecotricity Limited, signed off in January 2023, show that that company sold over £64 million worth of gas, equivalent to 19% of turnover, in 2022. This represented an increase in gas sales, by value, of over 30% compared to the previous year.

Now we know why Mr Vince supports Just Stop Oil rather than Just Stop Gas.

But from where does virtue signalling, holier than thou Dale source his ‘green’ gas? The North Sea? Norway? In liquified form from the Gulf or America? Hmmmm. March 11th 2022’s edition of the Stroud Times carried the headline, ‘Dale Vince’s statement on doing business with Russian supplier Gazprom.’ Dale explained, “Like many companies, we’ve been asked in recent days what commercial links we have with Russian companies – in our case the main focus has been on Gazprom.”

In his statement, Dale pretended that he didn’t know he bought gas from Putin, having had to, “Dig into the numbers in our trade book.” After wrestling with his conscience, no doubt in order to bring peace to the Ukraine and save the planet, Dale concluded, “The best thing to do is see the contract [with Gazprom] through and then move on.”

Oddly the company website also claims:

Ecotricity is different. Instead of paying dividends to shareholders, we invest our customers’ bill money into building new sources of green energy.

Interestingly, page 28 of the latest submitted accounts of Ecotricity Limited reveals a final dividend of £10,000,000 payable to the company’s only shareholder. This was in spite of Ecotricity Ltd making a profit of only £5.7 million that year and a loss the previous year of £9 million. That shareholder is Ecotricity Group Ltd, another company controlled by Dale Vince.

Mr Vince’s business partner is the interesting Asif Rehmanwala, who holds or has held directorships in 78 companies, nearly all of them in tandem with Mr Vince.

Between 1998 and 2001, Mr Rehmanwala was employed by energy industry watchdog Ofgem before moving to E.ON, a company over which Ofgem supposedly watches. Discovering a preference for poaching over gamekeeping, Asif moved to Ecotricity in 2009 and has been involved in numerous Ecotricity vehicles over the last 14 years.

With a tear in the eye, QT Review is forced to recommend to Puffins that they don’t believe a word that Mr Dale Vince (who lives in a £3 million 18th century fort in Gloucestershire) says on tonight’s Question Time.

Johnny told Dale off. You don’t know the Prime Minister and I do. Oh, listen to her!

Dale made up a nutty factoid. Somehow, he claimed, ‘green’ energy creates two and half times more jobs than conventional power production. Proof?

La Bruce pointed out Labour isn’t opposed to new oil field development. Bridget explained she didn’t want to rush too quickly to save the planet.

Kate suggested shaking up the planning system. Never mind years, it takes decades. She detected a shift in priorities from New Zero to cost of living. Now wasn’t the right time to ban central heating, cars and cooked food.

Kate Andrews is an American-born journalist who is known for her work with The Spectator and with whom is the Economics Editor. The 31-year-old has also worked for the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a free-market think tank based in London, where she was the Associate Director. Andrews is known for her advocacy of free market economics.

A fuller QT Review biography of the $48,000-a-year Greens Farm Academy, Connecticut, old girl can be found here. Trigger warning, it includes a YouTube link to the side-splitting Blind Mirth Improv ‘Comedy’ Group of which Colonial Kate was a member when a student at St Andrews.

Dale defended disruption by Just Stop Oil which he helps to fund. Then he ranted that global warming weather disrupts Wimbledon more than his protestors.

Johnny joined in. Just Stop Oil’s funder donates to Labour. Ah. But Just Stop Oil don’t support Labour, retorted La Bruce.

Question three was about education, while the teachers are on strike. Bridget was going to fund a huge improvement in state education by putting VAT on private school fees. Then she flannelled. She felt teachers’ pain and was going to do lots about it. What, asked Johnny? She suggested throwing even more money at teachers’ salaries.

Bridget Phillipson has been serving as the Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South since 2010. Born on 19 December 1983, she studied Politics at University College, Oxford, before working for a charity supporting women victims of domestic violence. Phillipson was one of the youngest MPs when she was first elected and therefore has never had a job beyond that one at the charity – a £1.85 million a year charity, run by her mother, which has close financial ties with Sunderland’s Labour council.

Bridget, who bears an uncanny resemblance to, and possesses all the political gravitas of, Thelma out of the Likely Lads, has held several roles within the Labour Party, including Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office.

La Bruce asked if there were any teachers in the carefully selected BBC audience. As if having shouted ‘Paddy’ in Ireland, she was nearly killed in a stampede of raised hands.

Opportunity has gone up, claimed Johnny. We are the best readers in the world. Labour have committed the same money six times over. If you want mother hen and apple pie, vote Labour and get a worse education for your children.

Kate didn’t think the money would be there at all. Pupils will be pulled out of private schools. The VAT take will be smaller and state schools will have to fund more pupils. Speaking of Liz Truss, her brief premiership should be a lesson to any future Labour government. These days the markets give politicians short shrift.

Dale was going to pay for everything for everybody by taxing ‘the rich.’

Next question, is social media good for discussing politics? Johnny Mercer had been caught out by comments about food banks. He name-checked Plymouth an awful lot throughout the programme. Is he frightened he loses his 13,000 majority seat?

Kate’s had 1000’s of Twitter comments today, even before she’d appeared on the programme. She wasn’t wrong. I had a quick look at them. Ouch. She believed in freedom of speech but there should be boundaries.

They can be, observed Dale, it can be a bit of a bubble but on the whole social media is a good thing. Mainstream media is dominated by billionaires who live abroad. Social media gives a voice to everyone.

Are we social media, Puffins? No, we aren’t, we’re alternative media, alternatively here all summer, unlike Question Time which has finished now until September 21st.

© Always Worth Saying 2023

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