Friday, October 13, 2006

Labour's burning us

South Shields MP David Miliband's regular party political puff piece in the Shields Gazette (Now's time to reflect on the achievements of Labour's nine years in government, 11th October) examined Labour's 'achievements' after nine years in power. Whilst he praised his party for low interest rates (despite them being set by the independent Bank of England), record employment and increased education spending, he forgot to mention one particular area of Labour policy. No, I don't mean the war in Iraq. Despite being Secretary of State for the Environment, he didn't have anything to say about Labour's environmental record.

This implies that Labour is embarrassed by it's performance on the environment, and on further consideration, it's not surprising.

Since 1997 Tony Blair has been warning us about the threat of climate change. Unfortunately, since 1997 the UK's greenhouse gas emissions have increased. This increase is set to continue with Labour's plans for airport expansion and massive new road building schemes. Indeed, whilst only about £2.5m has been committed to the low carbon buildings program to support micro renewables, the government is willing to throw £3.7bn at widening 250km of the M1. That's 1,500 times more money is being put into one scheme that will encourage the increase of CO2 emissions than is being spent on reducing them.

But instead of investing massively in emission reduction schemes and developing new initiatives to cut greenhouse gases, Labour has used the concern over climate change and energy to cynically resurrect the nuclear power industry. It seems that when it comes to Labour and the environment, it's business as usual - that is, as usual Labour's relationship with business is more important than it's record on the environment.

Now we hear whispers that the Government will back the Climate Change Bill, perhaps making it a feature of the Queen's Speech in November. That would be great news. But we are still 9 years late on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

If the rumours about the Bill are true, I hope that it isn't watered down to make it politically safe. The planet doesn't have time for more talking shops and protracted bargaining. We have a limited time to get things moving and that means we need a social and political determination that we haven't seen since the Second World War. This isn't something that's 100 or 1000 years away. If you're under 40, you're likely to see what's coming in your lifetime, and your children certainly will.

What we do over the next few years will decide if our children will see countries disappear under the sea, food riots on the streets of Britain and wars, not over oil, but water.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Blair's cross to bear

While some suggest that Tony Blair owed the spark for his finale speech to John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath , perhaps his real inspiration came from something higher. Craig Brown's excellent satire piece in the Telegraph, hints further at Mr Blair's true calling.

In his speech, Tony told us in almost Last Supper piety, "You can't go on for ever. That's why it's right this is my last conference as leader" and finished off with the truly heart rending "Whatever you do, I'm always with you. Head and heart."

Is he looking forward to a twilight career as the Son of God?