Posted by: notsomuchatreehugger | 28 July 2009

letter to Miliband from Peter Arbuthnott, brother of one of the occupation heroes

Dear Ed Milliband
I am writing after hearing you talk at Oxford Town Hall yesterday, July 28th 2009.
My brother, rather like yours is involved in politics. Unlike yours however, this is his second career. My brothers first career was with Vestas. He turned to politics when there seemed to be no other option in his working life and is currently sleeping on the office floor.

I was most pleased therefore to read yesterday that there might be a light at the end of the corridor for this new career path (to which I personally think he is not best suited). Then, if you will, imagine my disappointment that the grant of GBP 6M was only for the company, and not to help out with the concerns I have for employment for my family.

In reading around the subject I first came across an interestingly similar situation in a not too distant country. Seems that a Mr Alex Salmond of Scotland can find GBP 10 M to keep an equivalent factory in Cambletown open. This was backed up by an external investor and it’s looking like the factory
will expand to 3 times its size. I heard you, Mr Milliband say only yesterday how Vestas claimed they needed almost exactly the same amount to turn the Isle Of Wight factory to produce offshore blades. It surprised me therefore that a country the size of Scotland can afford to pay the right amount to get the jobs
retained, but the much larger purse strings in Whitehall cannot seem to replicate that behaviour. Is this
a) just because the Scottish First Minister has more money than you to promise in the negotiations,
b) because he’s more dedicated to the task of keeping his country in work, or is it
c) that he understands how the bigger picture fits together and how saving a factory can somehow be related to saving the planet and was willing to put his money on the line?

Once I had an answer to that conundrum (I’m currently guessing a), I was able to continue my investigations. Confusion reigned until yesterday, when you put me straight on the matter. The two simple facts you provided clarified the situation entirely. The first fact was that the Vestas *said it wasn’t about the money* and it was purely a matter of a lack of demand for the Vestas product in the UK and European market. This fact tied so neatly with the one about Vestas investing in a large blade manufacturing plant in the US and therefore not being able to sustain both.

Again yesterday, you informed that nationalising the plant was not an option. I am still unclear about this one. You said (and please forgive me for paraphrasing) that it would set a bad example to other companies wishing to invest in the UK if the government simply took it over. That all seems sensible, except that the company in question don’t actually want the thing that the government would be buying. If I was Vestas I’d take tuppence ha’ penny for the thing and jump ship with the lovely investment monies promised. Sure, I’d say, do what you want with the place, I certainly can’t make it work cause there are no orders for the stuff it can produce. I’m fairly sure that this kind of ‘come here, dump on us and then we’ll buy you out’ type of attitude would attract lots of companies wishing to invest in the UK. Am I wrong about this, or can you see
my possibly warped perspective on this?

I am probably daft, but as an ex mechanical engineer, I am unable to see what the difference between an offshore and an onshore wind turbine BLADE could be. I am pretty clear that difference in the electrical systems in use may be required when crossing the pond. I am unable to work out from any of the literature what the difference between an blade made for the US and one made for the UK. Even if they drive on the wrong side of the road, the thing that goes round (the wheels) seem to go the same way and in general a car from the US kind of works here in the UK. In order to understand this deeply technical issue I decided to speak to my kin who would, I assumed, be well informed about these things. “Hmm” says he. “Well we make them both see at different times and I never really know, cause the management don’t really know, where one blade will end up”. “We do make em in different sizes” he added. This all seemed somewhat different to
your understanding and I’d love to hear how you are seeing the onshore/offshore/UK/US technicalities so that I can be sure myself about it. Is this something that you can furnish me with I wonder?

I look forward to any kind of reply,

Peter Arbuthnott


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