Friday, 21 July 2023

Perhaps we really are doomed


One of the less endearing traits of politics, in Wales as much as in England, is the habit some politicians have of campaigning against their own party’s policies in order to get elected. In Wales, it’s commonplace when the Labour government wants to make changes to the NHS to see Labour candidates and elected members purporting to ‘lead’ the opposition to their own government’s proposals; more locally, Labour councillors are more than happy to ‘lead’ campaigns against school proposals put forward by their own authority. For some strange reason, it seems to work – voters really are bamboozled into thinking that members of the ruling party can indeed be relied upon to stop their own party’s proposals.

We saw a variation on that yesterday in the by-election in Boris Johnson’s old seat, which the Tories largely succeeded in turning into a one-issue campaign against the extended Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). They presented it as though it was all the fault of that evil mayor, Sadiq Khan; but as Richard Murphy has pointed out today, that simply isn’t true. The original idea of the zone was born under the mayoralty of a certain B. Johnson, and the extension of the zone to include areas such as Uxbridge was imposed on Khan by the Tory Transport Minister, Grant Shapps (other names for the same person are available), with the very specific aim of raising cash for Transport for London, as a condition of a grant. So when the Tories attack the ‘anti-car’ policies designed to raise money from motorists, they’re actually attacking their own policy. And it seems to have worked.

It's probably no surprise that the likes of Jake, Frosty and Deadwood have leapt onto the bandwagon and demanded that the Tories abandon all net-zero policies because they are unpopular. I’m pretty certain that uncontrolled climate change will be unpopular too, but unfortunately the inexorable changes being caused by human activity are stubbornly refusing to submit themselves to the UK’s electoral cycle. Within the Tory Party itself, they’re pushing at an open door – short term profit will always be seen as the priority. The more worrying aspect is that the increasingly probable next government is also frightened by the prospect of electoral damage as a result of supporting net-zero policies. Starmer has already back-tracked significantly on the issue, as on so many others. What we need is leadership; politicians prepared to spell out the consequences of not acting. What we’re getting is politicians who are willing to say whatever makes them popular today, and hang the consequences. We really do seem to be doomed.

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