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Osborne urged to prioritise the nuclear option

Campaign group heaps pressure on Osbourne to back nuclear industry.

The Chancellor George Osborne has been urged to put nuclear power at the forefront of the country's electricity supply policy by Sir William McAlpine, chairman of the pressure group Supporters of Nuclear Energy (SONE).

The call comes at a controversial time for nuclear energy mainly due to the fall out from the massive earthquake that hit Japan in March this year and that damaged the countries nuclear infrastructure. The leak of radioactive material from damaged nuclear reactors prompted worldwide concern over the safety and feasibility of nuclear power.

McAlpine wrote: "We welcome your determination that Britain should not impose costs on consumers and industry that exceed those of our competitors in an effort to reduce carbon emissions and your reduction of some subsidies."

In an attack on the government's renewable energy policy he went on to argue that: "The sheer disparity between the cost of other sources -- and especially offshore wind -- and nuclear is startling when nuclear can reasonably be claimed to provide security of low carbon supply at affordable cost."

He added: "We wish you well in re-introducing the long-overdue concept of value for money into it. In our view, the evidence requires nuclear power to be at the forefront of electricity supply policy."

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Lord Geoffrey Howe dies, age 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.