Why is Labour ignoring the biggest issue of our generation?


10:51 am - November 28th 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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Last week when the government was in complete conflict over the Energy Bill, Ed Miliband was applauded for calling on them to stick to de-carbonisation targets. But it was a low-key speech, made in Scotland, only covered by the usual suspects.

Soon after, Ed Balls visited a wind farm with John Sauven of Greenpeace. Once again very little was made of it and the press barely informed when green energy was on top of the news agenda.

This has become a pattern. Last month, the private sector ruined Osborne’s party conference speech with a Times splash that said – “Go green or we quit Britain, energy firms tells Osborne.” How did Ed Balls greet the ensuing media interest? With silence.

There’s no doubt Labour has trouble getting attention for much of the noise they make around the NHS Bill. But they’re not new to the art of picking a fight (usually with Jeremy Clarkson) to get a story going in the press.

Along with many of their allies in the sector, I get the distinct feeling that the Labour leadership is shying away from the battle over renewable energy, green jobs and the Energy Bill.

For over a year, we have been letting the Tories get away with murder. On a vital issue, the Conservatives have moved away from the general public in order to promote and anti-science, anti-clean energy and anti-growth Tea-party wing of the party.

Why isn’t Labour making more noise about this? Some shadow ministers have claimed the media doesn’t cover these stories, but even if green investment and energy has been clogging the front pages for months now, Miliband is at his best when he sets the agenda.

It may be that the industrial policy followed by Ed Balls is still stuck in the past and sees the environment as separate to the economy. If so, he should have attended the TUC’s conference on the green economy only last month.

The public is on-side despite the attempts by the right wing press – every poll shows Britons preferred the UK to push for renewables over fossil fuels. A YouGov poll by Sunday Times last month found that 64% of UK want more wind or solar; only 14% want more oil or gas.

Perhaps Ed Miliband is worried the environmental credentials he inherited from pushing the Climate Change Act make him look too soft. But there’s nothing soft about the impact of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York. There’s nothing soft about the economic figures the CBI are bandying about. There’s nothing light-hearted about accusing the Chancellor of letting ideology rip our economy apart.

Climate change isn’t a soft issue – it’s a sledge hammer. The Tories are crazy for letting the environment slip from their fingers, all to appease their ideologically extreme backbenchers.

Cameron must be grateful that Labour is asleep at the wheel in calling him on it.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Environment

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Reader comments


For many people, the environment is a vague and distant. When people are struggling to feed their families, and keep a roof over their heads, and worry about the NHS, the latter are more terrifying if not addressed by Labour. And (aprt from the NHS) Labour are also silent or inept on welfare cuts and housing (and they started the welfare cuts.) If ‘Green’ energy could be marketed as cheaper, ege via insulation then more people might engage.

Why Sunny not make headlines good :(

3. Raymond terrific

The biggest issue of our generation?

Bad grammar?

Come on boffins,let’s get that title sorted!

4. Chaise Guevara

Typo aside, I think it’s hyperbolic to call anything “the biggest issue of our generation”, unless there’s a giant meteor heading straight for Earth like in that film.

If Milliband’s downplaying this, it might be because he wants to appeal to the little Englander crowd, which is probably not good. Do we know where he stands on issues like alcohol tax, anti-smoking initiatives, etc.?

I agree with Sunny. This really is the low-hanging fruit. I suspect the answer is in the OP too: Ed Balls. Labour could make a huge difference by embracing sustainable energy as part of a progressive industrial policy. Britain has often had the innovators who invent technologies only for their development to be neglected and for us to be overtaken by more visionary countries. It would be great to change the script on an issue as important as this.

No idea why Labour are missing such open goals, but then again I have no idea why this blog has (as far as I can tell) completely ignored the Justice and Security Bill currently going through the house trying to increase the use of secret courts. Maybe it’s Liberal Conspiracy that’s ignoring (one of) the biggest issue(s) of our generation?

CG @ 4

I think it’s hyperbolic to call anything “the biggest issue of our generation”, unless there’s a giant meteor heading straight for Earth like in that film.

Does it matter how fast the meteor is travelling or how quickly the damage will manifest itself? What if it was going to hit a thousand years from now? Do we do nothing for 999 years and six months and thn panic or do we start to take action now in order to be ready in a thousand years? The point about Global Warming is that the damage will be done over decades and to billions of people, the fact that it will not take place in a single strike does not make it less significant or even less threatening.

completely ignored the Justice and Security Bill currently going throug

WHAT? We’ve published loads of pieces on the secret courts legislation and on the cuts to Legal Aid!!

Interesting that nowhere in the article do you mention Caroline Flint. Is this because Labour is now so centralised that everything has to be seen to come from the two Eds, or because she has no real sympathy/interest in energy and climate change and is merely treading water until she gets another position (perhaps anticipating Ed Miliband getting dropped in favour of someone more Blairite)? Or maybe a combination of both?
But then labour has never shown much support for the Green New Deal – a no-brainer surely for anyone able to escape the neo-liberal mindset.

10. Derek Hattons Tailor

@ 1 It isn’t cheaper though. We are all paying for wind farms in our power bills – and indirectly through just about every other bill. Still, I’m sure the little old lady on a state pension, as she decides whether to eat or put the heating on, will be really concerned about global warming, although the thought that she is at least sticking it to the evil oil companies will no doubt keep her warm…………

11. Chaise Guevara

@ 7 Jim

I agree with you on climate change, and I am in no way trying to downplay the risks. The risks are fucking terrifying. I’m just saying it’s hard to call “the biggest issue of our generation” when, for example, our American cousins are torturing legally innocent people, and we’re telling critically disabled people to go find work or starve. And people work as slaves in the third world so we can buy cheaper fucking T-shirts. Casually saying climate change is the big issue significantly underestimates how fucked up the world is.

when, for example, our American cousins are torturing legally innocent people, and we’re telling critically disabled people to go find work or starve.

A few dozen, and a few tens of thousands, respectively. Significant and bad, yes, but several orders of magnitude less important than the expected suffering caused by AGW.

And people work as slaves in the third world so we can buy cheaper fucking T-shirts.

There are an estimated few million slaves in the developing world, mostly working in agriculture. Being paid shit wages doesn’t make you a slave, particularly when said wages are higher than you’d be making if you stayed in your home village.

@10

We also all pay for the “externalities” of fossil fuels. Increased insurance bills, food prices, infrastructure costs etc.

@ Sunny – Far as I can see last article was 7 Sept, but absolutley nothing since then. The fact that’s it’s just gone through the the Lords, been massively ammended (though I would prefer it have been voted down) and now looks to be going to the Commons probably without the amendments hasn’t been commented on at all.

15. Man on Clapham Omnibus

10. Derek Hattons Tailor

All fossil fuels will become increasingly expensive so the idea that wind generation is expensive needs to take this into account.

I don’t think its helpful to refer to ‘the little old lady’ and the sad choice between food or heating. If this is the choice she is making it is because she is at the butt end of the capital system which has appropriated all the rewards to the top leaving scant resources for everyone else.

Energy choices will always be choices regarding the costs of production and the externalities involved.Since we don’t produce gas so that isn’t viable in security terms Coal – massive Co2 and other pollutants,Nukes – massive subsidies (think old ladies!)and you cant get rid of the waste(look at the mess Sellafield are in). That leaves wind sea and solar as the only clean fuels of the future.

16. Man on Clapham Omnibus

11. Chaise Guevara

I personally think Ash die back is THE global crisis.
Where are all the new Stratocasters and Jazz basses gonna come from.

17. Man on Clapham Omnibus

1. Rentergirl

I think you are right re insulation. Reducing energy consumption in Commerce should be high on the agenda too.

CG @ 11

The problems you mention could be fixed within a couple of years. We could ban imports to Europe of cheap T shirts that are not made in European style safety standardsfor example. We could find the brands in this Country and ban the imports in a single day. Not saying it would easy to implement, but doable. Few disasters of this magnitude happen in Europe due to poor safty standards.

Even if we do nothing thousands of people will die over the years until we do. Tragic waste of life, of course, but not a fundimental shift in climate that could leave our entire planet unhabitable.

Climate Change requires a complete overhaul in our lives and how an entire economic system currently works. This is a massive undertaking that will not bear fruit until the generation who start the ball rolling are dead.

The OP is assuming that Labour is more green than the Coalition, which may or may not be the case.

The last Labour government wasn’t terribly good on green issues, partly due to resistance from mining and related unions.

Ed needs to be more specific about this surely?

@1:

“If ‘Green’ energy could be marketed as cheaper, ege via insulation then more people might engage.”

I’ve made a similar point previously, so naturally agree.

The average Briton, apparently, throws out one third of the food he or she buys. Minimising this sort of waste would actually save money, whilst having a positive impact on the environment.

The message ought to be a lot more positive, and focus on the practical steps we can all easily take.

21. Derek Hattons Tailor

@ 13 I’d be interested to hear how fossil fuels increase food costs. How much do you think it would cost to grow, process and transport coffee (random example) to Europe using only renewable energy ?
The cost of fossil fuels is already is taken into account, its called the energy market, the same market that says renewable energy is too expensive so taxpayers will have to subsidise it. Yes, over time it will get cheaper as economies of scale kick in and technology improves, but the idea that you can power anything approaching a modern economy using only wind and solar is delusional.

I think it’s hyperbolic to call anything “the biggest issue of our generation”, unless there’s a giant meteor heading straight for Earth like in that film.

A casual look at the Stern report and the like will show in very stark terms why it is the biggest issue, not just of our generation, but of many. That is exactly why many in business will tell you the same. Unfortunately, getting us all to agree what to with it, requires breaking the Prisoners Dilemma.

Climate Change is the elephant in the room.

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 John B

Good point on the numbers, and yes, I agree “slaves” was hyperbole. The global trade system is utterly messed up, though.

@21 DHT

continuing to rely on fossil fuels is delusional. The alternatives are not simply wind and solar. Anyway, who said it would be easy? The point is, we have no choice if we want a future that is worth living for our descendants.

Your attitude is beginning to look somewhat ostrich-like.

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 MoCO

“I personally think Ash die back is THE global crisis.
Where are all the new Stratocasters and Jazz basses gonna come from.”

Rosewood?

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 18 Jim

“The problems you mention could be fixed within a couple of years. We could ban imports to Europe of cheap T shirts that are not made in European style safety standardsfor example. […] Climate Change requires a complete overhaul in our lives and how an entire economic system currently works. This is a massive undertaking that will not bear fruit until the generation who start the ball rolling are dead.”

But actually fixing the economic unfairness problem, rather than just washing our hands of it, is also a massive undertaking. Imposing regulations for imports to Europe would probably help, and we she do it if the cost/benefit analysis says it would, but it would hardly make the issue go away.

27. Richard Carey

If it’s such a big issue, you lefties should boycott electricity, or better still you could all go on strike from producing CO2 by holding your breath until the government concedes to your demands. Surely this is the least you should be doing, given how big an issue it is.

@27 we could render righty twats like you and burn the fat to power a generator. The stuff from your head would be enough to power the average home by itself.

29. Derek Hattons Tailor

Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, so if we are going to stop doing anything it should be farting rather than breathing, this is what makes vegatarians so hypocritical, all those vegetables create more methane.

30. Richard Carey

@ 28 Cherub,

“we could render righty twats like you and burn the fat to power a generator.”

typical violent leftist response. You always want others to be sacrificed for your principles.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  2. Alex Braithwaite

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  4. Sunny Hundal

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  14. Gods & Monsters

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  15. Mike Yule

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  16. Sunny Hundal

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  19. Sunny Hundal

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  20. Marilyn Sanders

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  25. Earth Notes

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  26. AlanW_PoliticsUK

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  27. June Bug

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  28. Louis Stephen

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  29. Alastair Harper

    Climate isn’t a soft issue – it’s a sledge hammer. @sunny_hundal on why Lab (&any party!) can't miss out http://t.co/gsu7n9rp”

  30. Sunny Hundal

    Climate isn’t a soft issue – it’s a sledge hammer. @sunny_hundal on why Lab (&any party!) can't miss out http://t.co/gsu7n9rp”

  31. Becky Willis

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