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Archive for the ‘Climate change’ Category

Mar 6,2010

The Guardian this morning produces new evidence of the Conservative Party organisation using surrogates and deniability.  Apparently, a shadowy organisation, called the Young Britons’ Foundation has trained 2,500 Conservative activists including eleven Parliamentary candidates.  The “training” has involved exercises with assault rifles on a shooting range in Virginia and the organisation’s leader has called for the NHS to be scrapped, environmental protestors to be shot and for US-style laws on firearms.  He has also defended waterboarding techniques in interrogation.

Naturally, despite the group’s close links to leading Conservatives, like Daniel Hannan, Eric Pickles, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Ed Vaizey, David Davis and John Redwood, Conservative Central Office denies that it has official links with the YBF, even though it strongly recommends activists attend Blaney’s courses.

There they go again …..

Feb 2,2010

There is to be a new Joint Committee to consider the National Security Strategy.

The first National Security Strategy was published in March 2008 and looks beyond the traditional areas of foreign, defence and security policies to include transnational crime, pandemics and flooding.

The Strategy was updated in June 2009 with further updates to be produced every year.  It has always been the intention that there would be a Joint Parliamentary Committee with members drawn from both Houses to help monitor the implementation and development of the Strategy.

The Committee is to consist of twelve Commons members, including the Chairmen of the Departmental Select Committees on Foreign Affairs, Defence, Home Affairs, International Development, Business and Enterprise, Energy and Climate Change, and Justice, and also the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, and ten Lords members (and I have been asked to be one of these).

Jan 8,2010

There is always a surreal air about aspects of the Annual Dinner hosted by the (unelected) Lord Mayor of London in the City’s Mansion House for the (elected) Mayor of London and the “Governing Bodies of London”.  And tonight’s was no exception.

The surrealism began with a Grace from the Lord Mayor’s Chaplain that seemed to be based entirely on a song by Noel Coward – an innovation too far even for the New Model Conservative Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham, Stephen Greenhalgh, or at least for his phone which warbled its protest whilst the Chaplain was speaking (Greenhalgh tried ineffectually to silence it..).

Meanwhile nearby, discontent simmered amongst Mayor Johnson’s Deputy Mayors about the seating arrangements: why had (unelected) Deputy Mayor Sir Simon (rumoured soon to be Lord) Milton been given such a prominent seat allocation, compared with the two other (elected) Deputy Mayors?  (Milton was at the centre of the top-table at the left hand of God himself or more precisely at the left hand of  Stuart Fraser, the (unelected) Chairman of the Corporation’s Policy and Resources Committee.)

And then, of course, there was the speech from Mayor Boris Johnson himself.  Surreally praising those present for braving the snow and ice – the snow and ice itself being a tribute to the success of the team from City Hall that had gone to the Copenhagen to reverse global warming (“How successful they were and so quickly”).

He then moved rapidly on to an argument that the success (sic) of London in coping with the snow and ice was itself a metaphor for the success that London was having in weathering the recession(sic, sic).

This elided into a paeon of praise for the decision he had himself announced that in future all the data held by the GLA would be made freely available on the internet.  This in itself would transform the economic prospects of London (if not the Universe).

And then after a brief digression on how his heart goes out to those poor MPs caught up in the expenses scandals “for buying themselves a pepperami” (sic) and how the GLA decision, if adopted by Parliament, would have averted the scandal because the afore-mentioned pepperamis would not have been purchased.  At least, I think that was the argument.

Finally, the great champion of openness informed his audience that he could tell us that he had seen the proposed 2012 Olympics mascot but that he couldn’t tell us anything about it – we were not permitted to know whether it was an animal or not, what its gender was, or its sexual orientation.  All he could say was that it would be “a howling success”.  And what is more, if by the time it is unveiled in May, Gordon Brown has been sent to a salt-mine (there was a sub-theme of the evening relating to salt and grit) the Olympics mascot will be temporary Leader of the Labour Party.  Now as everyone knows, if the Leadership of the Labour Party becomes vacant, the post is automatically filled by the Deputy Leader of the Party until a successor is elected – so presumably this was Mayor Boris Johnson’s way of telling us that the 2012 Olympics mascot will in fact be the Right Honourable Harriet Harman MP.

As the Governing Bodies of London filed out of the Mansion House into the snow and ice (which amazingly still remained), you could hear the murmur of confusion/buzz of excitement about the sweeping vision of London’s future that they had just heard from Mayor Johnson.

Jan 6,2010

Lord Lawson of Blaby (Nigel Lawson) has spelt out what the great mass of the Conservative Party really think about climate change and the Copenhagen summit: if you believe the scientific evidence on climate change (and most of them don’t), as the summit was a failure, the UK Government should repeal the Climate Change Act 2008 (as in the absence of concerted international activity it will not make a difference) and do nothing at all; and if you don’t believe the scientific evidence on climate change, the UK Government should repeal the Climate Change Act 2008 and do nothing at all. Either way, we should bury our heads in the sand.

Yesterday afternoon, in the House of Lords he spelt it out:

“Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, it is difficult to
engage with the Minister, since his answers to previous
questions have made clear that he is not living in the
real world at all, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, to
some extent pointed out. Nevertheless, does the Minister
recall that last year I pointed out that his own department
put the cost of the Climate Change Act to the British
economy at anything up to £18 billion a year, year in,
year out, and that there would be no conceivable
benefit unless there was a global agreement of the
same kind? Therefore, I asked him a year ago whether
he would undertake, if there was no such agreement at
Copenhagen, to repeal the Act, or at least to put it into
suspense. He replied that the question did not arise
because he was confident that there would be a wholly
satisfactory agreement atCopenhagen. Since the Minister’s
confidence, like everything else that he has said, has
been proved to be wholly misplaced, will he now
undertake—unlike the European Union, which has
made this conditional—to put thiswholly unconditional,
hugely damaging and hugely costly burden on an
economy which is not in the most robust condition
anyway into suspense as a result of the total failure of
Copenhagen to achieve what he was confident it would
achieve? Clearly, no useful purpose can be served by
carrying on with this at present.”

And then a few minutes later shook his head vigorously in disagreement when Lord Chris Smith referred to the “overwhelming” scientific evidence on climate change.

Nigel Lawson is absolutely clear on what he believes and is confident he is speaking for the great bulk of the Conservative Party.

Dec 12,2009

A local Liberal Democrat councillor sidled up to me while I was waiting for a bus in Crouch End earlier today (side note: the wait was another example of the stealthy degradation of the bus service since the election of Mayor Boris Johnson) to tell me that he thought the Greens were doing very well in Stroud Green.  He confirmed what I have been hearing from other sources that the Green Party with its radical edge and apparent principled approach to policy is beginning to make Liberal Democrats in London very jumpy that they are being outflanked.

Apparently, their fear is that the Cameron-lite approach being adopted by Nick Clegg is turning off many people who might otherwise be their supporters and that the voters they are losing are turning to the Greens (paticularly now that climate change is so topical and becoming a more significant political issue).  This is clearly bad news for sitting MPs like Lynne Featherstone and Sarah Teather …..

Oct 9,2009

In many ways the decision to award President Barack Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize is a strange decision.

I am an enormous admirer of the new US President and delighted with many of the changes in the US stance on a wide range of topics that have been initiated in his first few months in office.  But so far these are all changes of stance.  They have yet to be translated into solid achievements.  I hope they will be.

However, to quote former Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo: “You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose.”  Obama is of course now governing, but his foreign policy initiatives are still by and large at the campaign stage.  Making things happen is genuinely difficult; wishing for them is easier.

Thus, the Nobel citation stresses his “vision”, the “new climate” he is creating whereby “dialogue and negotiation” are the preferred instruments for resolving conflicts, and the “more constructive role” that the USA is taking on climate change.  The citation is right that all of these are a breath of fresh air and potentially set a new direction with a values-based approach to global issues.

Capitalising on this new direction and achieving sustainable solutions to these global issues, however, necessarily remains a long way off.  Normally, the Nobel Prize is awarded for a “result” or at the very least tangible progress – for example, US President Woodrow Wilson’s award in 1919 celebrated the achievements that had led to the formation of the League of Nations (even if the US Congress then declined to allow the USA to join).

Presumably, the intention of the award to Obama is to encourage other World Leaders to follow his lead.  I hope it succeeds, but I am not sure that that is the proper purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Oct 7,2009

Consecutive days’ editions of the Evening Standard have highlighted a split in the Tory party on airport policy in London.

Yesterday, the Tories said no more runways for London airports.  Indeed, a manifesto commitment was promised to scrap plans for a third runway at Heathrow with an added pledge that there would be no expansion at Gatwick or Stansted.

This sparked cynical remarks that  (perish the thought) the Conservatives were eying Labour-held marginals on the Heathrow flightpath.

Today, we hear (from the same reporter) that, in fact, billions of pounds have been pledged by oil-rich countries and China to build a brand-new additional airport in the Thames Estuary.

I understand there are no relevant marginals in the flightpath of the proposed new airport.

So yesterday’s arguments were nothing about climate change or high principle: it was just about votes.

Sep 15,2009

It appears that nine Wiltshire Councillors (six Conservatives, two Independents and one Liberal Democrat) are living on the Planet Zog and are trying to persuade the rest of the Council to join them there.

They have put down a motion calling on the Council to withdraw its support for the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change – a declaration supported by the vast majority of English local councils.

They are not doing this because they believe that such declarations are not worth the paper they are written on unless they are backed up by real actions.  Nor are they doing it because they feel that Wiltshire is failing to do enough to merit being a signatory.

Their reasons are apparently that they believe that the Declaration itself is “contentious, unreasonable and ultimately damaging” and that the idea that climate change is man-made is “founded on the sand of uncertainty” and relies on “the unproven significance” of man-made greenhouse gas emissions in determining climate.

It remains to be seen what their colleagues on the Council will make of this, but I suspect – despite the eco-friendly noises made by the Party Leadership – this is a fair reflection of what the Conservative Party (or at least its grassroots element) really believes.

The Conservative Party in Europe has already linked itself to the Planet Zog fraternity by leaving the EPP Grouping (already a pretty broad Church).  Here is more evidence of a Party occupied by Zog dwellers.