Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘conservative’

lightning and tornado hitting village

Photo by Ralph W. lambrecht on Pexels.com

On the night of November 28th 2019, Channel 4 broadcast a debate on climate change, on the steps we might take in the UK to put our carbon footprint in order, and provide an example of best practice that others in the world might follow. Leaders of all the main political parties were invited to speak and all agreed something must be done, the only difference between them was how much each would fall over itself trying to outdo the others’ ideas.

At bottom it required a radical move away from carbon based fuels and intensive agribusiness but, with targeted investment, it looked possible, that we might indeed reduce our carbon emissions to zero by 2030. I felt the vision served that night was not one of a defensive decline, but more of a positive, prosperous and sustainable green economy, one built upon a genuine political consensus, and I was heartened by it. The debate was of course part of the build up to the 2019 general election.

Notable by their absence that night were the Conservative party and the Brexit party. The podiums they might have occupied were replaced, much to their annoyance, by dripping ice statues, which spoke volumes to the nation, that those parties had nothing to say about climate change, let alone how to mitigate it. Their crass no-show seemed disastrous, guaranteed to wreck their credibility and severely damage their chances of winning the election.

But the Conservative party romped home to a massive majority and are now in power for the next five, possibly the next ten years. Everything progressive that was debated that night was rendered meaningless, and won’t now happen. This implies the majority of UK voters either don’t care about the impending climate catastrophe or – even as Australia burns and Greenland melts – they still don’t really believe in it.

We can’t wait another ten years to do anything about it. By 2030 all the sensitive ecological tipping points will have been tripped, and savage environmental phenomenon will have settled in on a scale that makes it obvious to even the most egregious denier the planet is adapting itself to our toxic presence with a view to wiping us out.

The feeling among many climate scientists is that even if we act now, and in unison, globally, it’s probably too late to do anything other than stabilise the climate in its present state of distress. Without action, as now seems the case, not just in the UK, but across all the major world powers, vast areas of the planet will become uninhabitable, harvests will fail and future wars will be fought, not over oil but over fresh water, grain and habitable territory. Meanwhile, unimaginable numbers of climate refugees will cross the world trying to find safety in the temperate zones. And they will not be welcomed.

The rich are insulated from the problem by virtue of their wealth. They are buying up land in places like New Zealand in order to build their fortified palaces, complete with zombie apocalypse bunkers, where they imagine they might continue to consume in extraordinary luxury the last of the planet’s resources. Meanwhile, our children will struggle daily in the face of hardship and danger.

So what to do? Well, in my latest work in progress: “Winter on the Hill”, (currently being serialised for free on Wattpad) my protagonist, a former eco-warrior, veteran of street protests, and with a criminal conviction for civil disobedience, surveys the wreckage of that climate debate and the ensuing results of the 2019 election with a cool head. His conclusion? He buys himself a three litre diesel four-wheel drive SUV, takes up hill-walking and, though it’s late in the day for him, he falls in love, more than once. The argument is lost, he says, no sense even debating it any more – just enjoy the next twenty or thirty years as best you can, because that’s all you’ve got left.

He’s an interesting character, at times prickly, and something of a socialist firebrand which may annoy some of you, but he’s also a very persuasive old curmudgeon, and I’ll be spending the next year or so getting to know him. I hope to convince him he’s wrong of course, not about love – I mean good on him for that, the old dog – but that we need him back on the barricades. Oh, and he’s to swap that monstrous diesel for an electric vehicle that won’t pull the skin off a rice pudding.

How do you rate my chances? Well, from the off, and as dispiriting as it is, I’m already tempted to concede that he might be right.

Read Full Post »

Mosaic (1)In light of the upcoming UK election, I’ve been poking around the Internet absorbing political discourse outside of the mainstream. But whether you’re skimming the pithy, potty-mouthed missives of the social-media comment boxes, or the more long-form partisan essaying (like this one) on WordPress, it’s apparent there are crackpots at all levels, and on both sides of the political divide. And worse, once we enter the online world, all we end up doing is living in a bubble of our own prejudice.

So who do we listen to for a balanced view when so much of the mainstream print media is unashamedly right wing? Can we even trust the BBC, when their flagship current affairs programmes make a point of “reviewing” those unashamedly right leaning print headlines? Do we go with our brains, or our gut? Is our vote not swung more by the cut of the candidate’s suit, regardless of what they actually say? Is it worth voting at all?

On the one hand, politics is a dirty business, where what is right and proper is often sacrificed on the dubious altar of Realpolitik, where monumental complexities are brushed aside by fatuous slogans like, “Get BREXIT done”. So perhaps we are wise to keep our distance. But on the other hand politics determines the course of all our lives, so is it not as well to at least keep a weather eye on which way the wind is blowing? And anyway, we can’t help but be involved; that gold-plated super-car purring around Knightsbridge, and the homeless man begging in the boarded up doorway of a once prosperous provincial town? both are the consequences of political decisions taken over the last decade, and we have all played our part in that, either by the votes we cast, or by our apathy in not bothering to turn out and vote at all.

Is politics just too complicated to analyse intellectually? Admittedly my own views are partisan and simplistic. In any nominal democracy I see there is a party of the poor and a party of the rich, and then there’s the money. The party of the poor implement policies that direct the flow of money towards the poor and the services that support them, while the party of the rich do the opposite. Since there aren’t that many rich people, the genius of the party of the rich is to convince the poor to vote for it, and to blame their resulting impoverishment, the decay of their public services, and the wasteland of opportunity for themselves and their children on immigration and the scourge of the “foreigner”.

I’ve noticed when my left-of-centre colours are revealed, and particularly in recent times when people have become less reticent about giving offence, I tend to hear the same words: communist, terrorist-sympathiser and anti-semite, all within about ten seconds. The first two of these I find ridiculous and quite shallow, while the latter I find hurtful. But any attempt to deepen discourse and explore what might lie behind these vexed issues is met only by a hardened dogmatism.

It seems that once we have chosen our colours, we tend to stick to them. I have no doubt the party of the rich will do well in this coming election, even though they offer only more of the same. The message of the party of the poor offers far less suffering, but, incredible as it might seem after this lost decade, I fear not enough of us have suffered deeply enough to be receptive to their message, or the boldness of their vision.

Of the party leaders, I am told Boris Johnson is charismatic and affable, and I’m sure he is. But when I point out his widely reported shortcomings, to say nothing of his colourful and often outrageous pork-pies, they are celebrated as merely Boris being Boris. Of Jeremy Corbyn, I am told: “I could never vote for him”. Why? Because he’s useless and scruffy, and not sufficiently “prime-ministerial”. True, his suit, like mine, is more M+S than Jermyn Street, but he seems perfectly well turned out to me, and no one who has held his own fractious party together under three prime ministers while demolishing the majority of the latter administration in the 2017 election can be dismissed as entirely useless either. As for not being prime-ministerial enough, well,… its clearly a matter of opinion, but opinion – ill informed or not – does seem rather set against him.

As for the actual policies proposed by Corbyn’s Labour party – things like free superfast broadband for all, a national education service, re-nationalisation of privatised utilities – I’m told by armchair economists, we could never afford such utopian marvels, that the country would be ruined, that there is no “magic money tree”, which is all to suggest that staggering levels of poverty and the ruin of our national institutions are inevitable and a normal consequence of world affairs, all of which to my eyes suggests we are already bankrupt, both morally and fiscally.

When I ask, did the Conservative party not find the fabled “magic money tree” and shake it down for a billion pounds to purchase the support of the Ulster Unionist Party in 2017, that staggering sums of money can in fact be found under certain circumstances – and all this after denying the health service much needed investment – I find the discussion once again runs foul of entrenched dogmatism. It’s just too complicated. Instead we hear: “Get Brexit done”, “Delay and dither”, “Oven ready solution”. Such slogans solve nothing, but like all slogans they are effective in drowning out intelligent discussion.

The lesson in all of this, of course, is that the majority of voting in this coming December’s election will proceed along the usual entrenched lines, that the outcome – be it another hung parliament or a landslide – will be decided by a handful of floating voters in marginal constituencies who are seduced down from the fence to support one side or the other.

In spite of the late season, and the reported apathy among business leaders and voters in general, the coming election is an important one, both for the UK and, indirectly, for Europe. It’s like a boxing match into round-fifteen when we’re so punch drunk and weary we’re barely on our feet any more, capable of only one last shot, so we’d better make it count. It will determine whether the majority of us continue to limp along the same old lines of interminable declinism, or we try another way. At this stage, I am by no means optimistic. Still, we should vote as we see fit. Indeed, come rain snow or shine, we must all turn out on the 12th and vote or, whatever the outcome, we will have only ourselves to blame.

Read Full Post »