Thursday 30 March 2023

Hero, Not Zero

We must celebrate the full compatibility between the highest view of human demographic, economic, intellectual and cultural expansion and development, and the most active concern for the conservation of the natural world and of the treasures bequeathed by such expansion and development in the past. That means growth, industry, what someone once nearly called “the white heat of technology”, and the equitable distribution of their fruits among and within the nations of the world, so that everyone might enjoy at least the standard of living that we ourselves already enjoyed.

There is always climate change, and any approach to it must protect and extend secure employment with civilised wages and working conditions, encourage economic development around the world, uphold the right of the working class and of people of colour to have children, hold down and as far as practicable reduce the fuel prices that always hit the poor hardest, and refuse to restrict travel opportunities or a full diet to the rich. In Britain, we must be unequivocal about regretting the defeat of the miners in 1985.

We sent our manufacturing to India and China, yet now we have the gall to criticise their carbon emissions. And we expect to depend for energy on the Sun, the wind and the tides, precisely because it is beyond our power to stop them from doing what they do and we just have to live with it, yet we also expect to be able to stop climate change rather than finding ways of living with it. I am strongly in favour of solar, wind and tidal energy in the mix. The base of that mix is nuclear and coal. The coal without which there can be no steel, and thus no wind turbines or tidal turbines.

Any economic arrangement is a political choice, not a law of physics, and the “free” market cannot deal with climate change while defending and expanding our achievements. That is precisely why it is being promoted. But instead, we need the State, albeit a vastly more participatory and democratic State than has often existed. The energy sources to be preferred are those which provided high-wage, high-skilled, high-status jobs. 

Let us harness the power of the State, and deliver an all-of-the-above energy policy based around civil nuclear power and this country’s vast reserves of coal. Around those twin poles of nuclear power and of the clean coal technology in which Britain was the world leader until the defeat of the Miners’ Strike, let there be oil, gas, lithium, wind, solar, tidal, and everything else, bathing this country in heat and light. This is why we have a State.

Fracking? There is no problem with any energy source in principle, but none of that shale gas has turned up yet, and if it is anywhere, then it is in heavily populated areas that could do without the earthquakes, the poisoned water, and all the rest of it. Say it again, harness the power of the State to bathe this country in heat and light from oil, gas, nuclear, wind, wave, tidal, solar, and that without which there could also be no steel for rigs, pipelines, power stations or turbines, namely coal. Britain stands on one thousand years’ worth of coal, and was the world leader in clean coal technology until the defeat of the miners in 1985. Again, do not vote for anyone who will not say that the miners were right.

The opinion polls bear no resemblance to real votes cast, and even the Labour poll lead has halved since Rishi Sunak took over. Halved. The Labour vote has gone through the floor at all but one by-election since Keir Starmer became Leader, with one of those recording Labour’s lowest ever share of the vote. Council seats that were held or won under Corbyn have fallen like sandcastles, taking control of major local authorities with them. That is the bread and butter of the party’s right wing, who are not otherwise the most employable of people.

But when I tell you that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair’s Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not.