Archive for April, 2021

Keir Starmer’s task is to show how the Tories’ choices left Britain so exposed to the ravages of the crisis. Just like David Cameron did to Labour in 2008

06/04/2021, 10:35:20 PM

by David Talbot

When Gordon Brown took to the despatch box for Prime Minister Questions in late 2008, his slip of the tongue – that he had “saved the world” – was, of course, mercilessly mocked by his many detractors. Brown’s handling of the financial crisis, both actual and perceived, went on to form the nucleus of the Conservatives’ electoral strategy for the election two years later – and to dominate British politics for the next decade.

History has since judged the efforts of Gordon Brown to recapitalise the world economy in a rather more favourable light. Indeed, a rather noted economist may even agree with his assessment. But it provided a perfect wedge opportunity for the then opposition Conservative party who, as history has also rather forgotten, had hitherto pledged to match Labour’s spending plans.

The Conservatives’ ruthless exploitation of the global recession, and its central accusation that Labour’s profligacy had largely caused it, was the platform on which it fought the 2010 and 2015 elections. It was a conscious and potent choice to blame Gordon Brown and the Labour Party as being solely responsible for the recession and to continually fuel fears that the country was on the brink of bankruptcy. ‘Borrowing’ became the bogey word in British politics and the deficit the fulcrum in which all political decisions were taken. In a perfect illustration of how it is the victors that write history, the budget deficit today is exactly double what David Cameron and George Osborne were apparently so apoplectic about in 2010.

What, then, are the lessons to be applied to today’s, COVID-dominated, politics? Sir Keir Starmer marked his year in post with a missive in the organ of the left, the Observer, stating that the Prime Minister’s “slowness to act at crucial moments cost many lives and jobs”. It was possibly Starmer’s most damning assessment to date of the government’s handling of the pandemic, but it was mentioned only in fleeting, and not as a central thread of an event that, as the Prime Minister himself has admitted, the country will be dealing with for a lifetime.

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Will the UK’s relationship with coal burn on?

06/04/2021, 08:30:55 AM

by Benjamin Robinson

Near the end of 2020, the UK government published ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’. It outlined how the country will emerge from the Covid pandemic through a green recovery and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. In doing this, it promises hundreds of thousands of high-skilled high-paid jobs as, in the words of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, investment turns the UK “into the world’s number one centre for green technology and finance”.

The importance of this plan goes beyond domestic borders. At the end of 2021, the UK will host COP26, the UN conference in which Johnson’s Government must convince the gathered international parties to fulfil the Paris Agreement and ultimately tackle climate change. By setting out a seemingly impressive carbon reduction strategy, the UK is also challenging other countries to follow suit in a game in which the stakes could not be higher. According to US Climate Change Envoy John Kerry, the conference to be held in Glasgow “is the last, best opportunity that we have” for the world to avoid the catastrophe of rising global temperatures.

With this in mind, one could understandably be confused to learn that only a month on from the publication of the plan for a green transformation, permission was granted to open the first new deep coal mine in the UK for thirty years. The £165m mine, near Whitehaven in north-east England, was given the green light by the Cumbria County Council who were drawn in by the prospect of jobs. The ward has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the UK and the 500 jobs provided by the mine and the many more it will support are seen as a lifeline to the deprived area.

Whilst Cumbria Council shortly succumbed to pressure from environmental groups and announced they were reconsidering the mine’s application, it took the Government three months to do likewise. The protracted time to do so asks real questions of Johnson’s green agenda. The mine is projected to have an appreciable impact on the UK’s carbon budgets, with greater annual emissions than that of all of the current open UK coal mines combined. Moreover, the UK is one of the leading countries in the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a coalition of governments supposedly working to move the world on from coal.

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