Here’s to a Pretty Pink Nation
Sun 14th Jun 2015
The all-Tory government has only been in place for four weeks but the amount of daft and non-think policy statements coming out would be laughable if they weren’t so dreadful. Nor does there seem to be any joined up thinking behind the proposed actions . Certainly there’s a lack of consultation, particularly of the legal sort.
Take the Human Rights Act:
They have been banging on about this for years, persuading the public that it is there only to be misused by criminals and terrorists. They ignore all the little and perfectly innocent people who have had to use it to gain some justice. No, no, t he Human Rights Act is a BAD THING.
A very rightwing relative once started to say, “And as for that dreadful Human Rights Act…” when I cut in with:
“The trouble with the Human Rights Act is that all the people who complain about it have never read it.” End of conversation. And if we read it , none of us would w ant to get rid of those rights which became our British rights when the European Co nvention on Human Rights was enacted into our domestic law.
But Cameron wants rid of it and to replace it with ‘a British constitution’. But h ow, asked the lawyers, would it di ffer? Others pointed out that Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland all have these rights written into their devolution arrangements. Northern Ireland in particular has it written into the Good Friday peace agreement. Difficult if not impossible to unpick all of that. Oops! The British Constitution suddenly looks like an English Constitution – and I thought he wanted the Kingdom to remain United.
And when someone kindly pointed out that getting rid of the Act would not stop people being able to access the Court at Strasburg via the European Convention, Cameron said Britain would withdraw from that too. Considering that Britain played a major part in drafting the Convention, it was not the most adult reaction to spokes in his wheel.
The ‘ right to buy ’ is another ill-thought policy, but let’s out-Thatcher Thatcher and appeal to people’s ‘ aspirations ’ . The idea of forcing housing associations that are charities or privately owned to sell off their housing stock is draconian - and stupid, when you follow it with ‘the money from the sales can be put into much n eeded affordable housing’.
S everal London authorities are already following that band wagon, trying to empty estates and sell them off to developers. So, you throw people out of the affordable homes they’re living in and, possibly, build affordable homes with the money from the sales . But where are people supposed to live while waiting for these homes to be built, and which will turn out to be unaffordable anyway? You move them to other places which also have a dearth of affordable homes. Brilliant! No, the people resist .
But who cares about people when someone somewhere can make money , particularly out of energy ?
I won’t mention fracking because, curiously, neither has the government since the election. As lots of licences have been handed out ‘ like confetti ’, one assumes they have a cunning plan. But in other areas there is open cause for worry.
For years, despite the looming threat of serious climate change, it has been obvious that far less money goes into the research and building of renewable energy projects than into nuclear power. T he government insists that nuclear energy is carbon free, so that’s alright then. Except – they never factor in emissions created in mining uranium and the very much greater emissions generated by building nuclear power stations. By the time you get around to producing ‘clean’ energy, you have already done your bit to contribute to global warming.
According to Defra c limate change already threatens nearly two thirds of our nuclear power stations, which are at risk from flooding . That also applies to many of the ever-growing stores of nuclear waste, a problem that, try as they might, no government anywhere has succeeded in solving.
But just to ensure that we stay on top of the problems of flooding and sea level rises (and fracking, don’t forget fracking), Defra’s budget (of which the E nvironment A gency is a part) is being cut - again. And the government is promising to end the subsidies for building on-shore wind farms; and reduce the feed-in- tariff system whereby people can sell the electricity from their solar panels to the grid. Even worse is the news that the Department for Energy & Climate Change is cutting the energy efficiency budget by £40 million. Energy efficiency is the one area where we could make a real difference to our carbon emissions. And it is cheaper by far than building nuclear power stations.
Which is what Amber Rudd, the Energy and Climate Change Minister plans to do . The fact that the government is having problems getting anyone to join EDF in building the planned third power station at Hinkley Point ( just a few miles from the Somerset Levels that were flooded in 201 4) , a place where coastal erosion, tidal surges and rising seas already mean huge expenditure in flood prevention measures , bodes ill for any other planned facilities.
And the f irst prize for the daftest suggestion yet goes to Amber. She thinks that making nuclear power stations ‘beautiful’ will win over the climate sceptics . It won’t convince the anti-nuclear campaigners who think nuclear power stations are a blot on the landscape, as well as being dangerous. But I had this silly vision of Sellafield redesigned to look like the Taj Mahal ; or Hinkley Point being painted pink and becoming known as Pinkley Point . Perhaps they could hire Banksy to do a bit of winning decoration.
Despairing as I am, I can’t take this government too seriously. Or perhaps, in making Amber the Climate Change Secretary, Cameron doesn’t want us to take climate change seriously. If her genuine commitment to doing something about climate change results in pretty power stations, that is a possibility. And then I wonder…
W hat about those Tory and UKIP people who want to get us out of Europe ? Are they still living in the days of the British Empire ? No matter how many business leaders put forward lucid (something the anti-EU thinkers are not) explanations of what this country would lose, they say we will be ‘better off’ if we are not ‘controlled’ by the EU. We are, after all, GREAT Britain . No longer, I think, except in the self-important and delusional thinking of Westminster .
But here is an odd thing: the Conservative party is above all the party of the rich, the landowners who, in very real terms own most of the land across the UK . Their huge estates receive literally millions of pounds in EU subsidies via the Single Farm Payment . They need do nothing except own land to get this money ; the more hectares you own the greater the payout . Are they screaming about protecting their subsidies by staying in the EU? Well, are they? Is there even a whimper?
Losing that subsidy far outweighs Cameron’s grouse shooting subsidy , or his freezing of the gun licence fee, which means the public have to subsidise what it actually costs the police to issue those licences. Look how vocal landowners are about Scottish land reform, and removing the exemption from business rates . Cameron’s estate-owning father-in- law described it as being ‘ a Mugabe-style land grab ’ . Nor do they want the people to know who owns the land , a problem not just confined to Scotland , although Scottish land ownership does take the prize. And the NFU in all its regions is devoted to mega-farms and huge acreages .
The only answer I can find to this very odd silence is that behind the scenes they are planning to collar all the money this country currently pays to the EU. And that makes me wonder what lies behind all the other planned remakes of our unhappy country.
Lesley Docksey © 10/06/15