The essential problem with becoming more political over the past couple of years is that I’ve genuinely started to lose the faith. I know that the best way to change people’s minds is to be positive and upbeat but honestly, after a couple of gins, I tend to veer into bleak (and no doubt extremely tedious) territory at the moment. The more you read about climate change, the environment, and the loss of biodiversity, the more it becomes apparent that our government is doing virtually nothing to avert catastrophe. Smug digs at Caroline Lucas aside, Theresa May’s government is doing what my dad would have called the square root of FA. Ratifying the Paris Climate Change is easy – anyone with a lady bic has got that bit covered – but actually doing something to help contain this problem seems to be utterly beyond Westminster.
I’ve been chewing over this for some time now, and here’s my analysis in all it’s world-weary glory: our current Conservative Government is incapable of prioritising anything over money.
Now I’m really not having a dig at anyone who votes Tory – I’m the only leftie in my family, for a start, and I do get it, to an extent. I appreciate that a society needs economic stability in order to thrive – but my god, this bunch uses that justification to cover a multitude of sins. Here are just a few of their policies that have been keeping me up at night.
(1) Austerity: I’m no expert in economics (which by Michael Gove’s standards should fast-track me to the Treasury) but it’s abundantly clear that this policy is something of a clusterfudge. Leaving deficits to one side, how can it be justifiable to penalise the poorest and most vulnerable through endless cuts to public services, whilst continuing to offer tax breaks to big business and the fossil fuel industry? How is it reasonable or sustainable to promote a policy which is going so far as to breach international human rights – hammering, in particular, women, young people, ethnic minorities and disabled people? Why are we surprised when the “post-fact” promises peddled during the EU referendum nudged struggling communities into voting against their own interests? And then there’s nasty old climate change to think about – cutting funding for first responders and flood defences isn’t ideal when we can reasonably expect some pretty extreme weather in the coming years. It’s pretty diabolical.
(2) Fracking: Let’s take a moment to remember that the EU Referendum was run on the promise of giving power back to the people – cocking a snook at those nasty Brussels bureaucrats and making sure that if we want flammable flags, then dammit we shall have them. You could almost hear Henry V’s rousing speech running through Boris’ head as he whanged on about independence day. It was all very Last Night of the Proms. And yet…the Government doesn’t really believe in giving power to local communities. Not when there’s a risk of us exercising our right to make a decision they don’t particularly like. Take fracking, for instance. When Lancashire County Council decided to reject a fracking application last year, the Government responded by changing the rules. Now any decision regarding fracking can be made by the government, if they consider the application to be in the national interest – which, given that they’re the party going “all out for shale”, casts serious doubt on the idea that an application will ever be turned down. So much for people power, chaps – when they want our opinion, they’ll give it to us.
(3) Subsidies: Most of us are agreed that climate change is, in the words of Harrison Ford, a clear and present danger. In principle, I think it’s fair to say the majority of us have also made the connection between burning fossil fuels and global warming – apart from Donald Trump, who thinks it’s a Chinese conspiracy. Essentially if we’re to have any hope of keeping the temperature increase below 2°c, we have to stop now. This is not a drill. In fact, in most cases it is a drill, because our energy policy seems to be frack in national parks like your life depended on it.
Which brings us to the issue of subsidies. Not only are our leaders failing to support the renewable energy sector – subsidies for green energy were slashed last year – but they are actively propping up coal. The Paris Deal becomes depressingly theoretical when you read George Monbiot’s comment that ,“In Britain for example, tax rebates for North Sea oil and gas companies are so generous that over the next five years the government is likely to give them around £5 billion more than it receives in revenues. There are similar tax breaks for fracking companies – but not, of course, for renewable energy.” A child could identify the problem with this set-up: it’s short-sighted, hypocritical, and essentially driven by the fact that there is no chance of a right-wing government alienating insanely wealthy fossil fuel companies. The stakes literally couldn’t be any higher, and all they’re concerned about is the bottom line.
(4) Hinkley Point: Now I don’t have any particular beef with nuclear power. My dad worked on a nuclear submarine, for heaven’s sake, so joining the CND isn’t really an option in my house. There are huge questions to be answered about how we store nuclear waste safely, but in principle this is surely something that needs to be explored if we’re going to wean ourselves off coal and oil. Hinkley, however, does yank my chain, for the simple reason that this is being presented as a green solution by the government when (i) see points 2 and 3 above: what’s the point of promoting this whilst hamstringing other forms of green energy (ii) it’s going to cost a fortune and the technology, by all accounts, is the equivalent of trying to “build a cathedral within a cathedral” and (iii) it seems likely that it’ll take a good ten years for this plant to be generating energy when we need to tackle our energy crisis now. Not in 2020. It’s hardly the silver bullet.
(5) Bake Off: As if the summer couldn’t get any worse, now the Tories have stolen cake. Cake. What’s next?! Christmas?!
So here’s my dilemma: is it possible to talk about all that in an up-beat way? How can I evolve from teeth-gnashing into charm? Is there a more effective way to convince people than to collar them at parties and scream that we’re doomed? If there is, I haven’t found it – and I suspect that my rage is as ineffectual as it is exhausting. Any tips most welcome – and in the meantime, it’s best to avoid me during cocktail hour.