May-DUP coalition and #climate change

Note: I pitched this a couple of weeks to a news outlet, was told yes/no/maybe and then waited.. and waited.  Further correspondence unanswered, so am posting it here, if only for posterity….


Let’s play a game of pretend.  Let’s pretend that the deal wounded Prime Minister Theresa May has stitched with the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party lasts for at least one of the five years she mentioned in her speech on Friday morning.

The deal is causing some Tory MPs concern, with some warning party whips that a formal deal would be opposed, thanks to the DUP’s positions on abortion, gay rights and climate change. Basically, they’re worried that the deal will further re-toxify the Tories.

Let’s pretend that she won’t be “gone in six months” , or in fact at “the end of next week”. What might we have to look forward to on climate change, which was predictably absent from the election campaign ? First we should briefly recap the DUP and some of its climate change positions.
Who are the DUP and what actually is their view on climate change

The DUP is a political party in Northern Ireland,  founded in 1971 (at the height of the Troubles) by Ian Paisley, who led it for the next 38 years. It’s now led by Arlene Foster,  who probably came to the attention of most English voters only when the Good Friday power-sharing arrangement was suspended earlier this year when the she had to resign over a scandal about energy efficiency…

The DUP has now got ten members of Parliament. One of them is Sammy Wilson. Back in 2009, as environment minister in Northern he banned UK Government ads which exhorting people to “Act on C02.”

It’s unclear how much the DUP will try to hold up the May government on social and environmental issues though.  For one, they’re probably simply more interested in what happens with the European Union (they’re keen to avoid a ‘hard border’).   The editor of Belfast’s Unionist-leaning daily News Letter Sam McBride says

“They’ve been very pragmatic, are very malleable when they have to be, have governed [in Northern Ireland] for a decade now with Sinn Fein, who are diametrically opposed to them on almost every ideological sphere.”

Secondly, they know that there are powerful Tories who would push back if they tried to push, for example, on gay rights.  Ruth Davidson, leader of the Tories in Scotland, has secured agreement from Theresa May that the DUP deal will not affect LGBTI

So, perhaps they will not have much obvious impact on environmental decisions. Time will tell.


What big climate decisions are coming up that might be affected?

The first indication of May’s agenda (if she is indeed still Prime Minister: rumours are swirling) will be the “Queens Speech” on Monday 19th June.  [It was delayed]

This is the formal opening of the new parliament, where the Queen reads out the government’s legislative agenda.

Wags are already predicting it will be the  shortest Queens Speech ever., given so many things can’t be talked about, thanks to pressure not just from DUP, but also marginal MPs.  If climate change gets a more than a passing mention, I’ll eat this …  article, a la Matthew Goodwin


In autumn the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will have to keep his promise.  In his spring budget Philip Hammond put off changes to the UK’s carbon price until his autumn 2017 budget. As per Carbon Brief,

“Subjects not mentioned in the budget include flooding, shale gas (a favourite of former chancellor George Osborne) and a diesel scrappage scheme, which campaigners say is needed to tackle the UK’s chronic air pollution. Hammond also did not mention renewables or carbon targets, in a lightweight budget document that clocked just 68 pages, compared to 148 in last year’s version.”

With regard to renewables, there are great concerns about a policy vacuum  following the closure of the Renewables Obligation to new capacity.

According to Adam Vaughan, the Guardian’s energy correspondent, drawing on a Green Alliance  study

“investment in windfarms will fall off a “cliff edge” over the next three years and put the UK’s greenhouse gas reduction targets at risk, with more than £1bn of future investment in renewable energy projects disappeared over the course of 2016, the Green Alliance found when it analysed the government’s latest pipeline of major infrastructure plans.”

“The final closure of the Renewables Obligation to new capacity in 2017 – ending a scheme that’s responsible for 23.4% of all electricity supplied in the UK in 2015-16 – can only mean even fewer renewable generation sites coming online in the next year.”

Another  reportStaying Connected: Key Elements for UK–EU27 Energy Cooperation After Brexit, jointly authored by Chatham House, the University of Exeter and the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), argues that there are strong practical reasons for treating energy as a special case during Brexit negotiations. If common ground could be found on energy during the Brexit negotiations, it would, according to the authorts benefit both the UK and the EU,

Sure, but there seems to be a widening gap between what ‘could’ and ‘should’ happen and what seems possible.

Meanwhile, at some point the much delayed (actually AWOL) emissions reduction plan will have to get released at some point.

As for the  post-Brexit positions (given that the UK will no longer be within the EU bloc in the UNFCCC negotiations), well, that’s doesn’t seem near the top of anyone’s to do list.

Basically, there is no end in sight to what academic Malcolm Keay has described as the “ideological limbo” in which the UK

“risks getting the worst of both worlds – without the coordination and direction which could come from a centralised approach or the efficiencies and innovation which might emerge from a more consistent market based policy. UK energy policy [risks being] not be fit for purpose and will fail to meet its key goals, of economic effectiveness, environmental protection and energy security.”

Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide accumulates

#GrenfellTower – “never again” they say. But WHO ensures that? How? #socialmovements

Glued to the newsfeeds.  Thinking in horror of the lives cut short, women throwing babies from the ninth floor.  The courage of the firefighters, the desperation, the professionalism of the emergency staff, the NHS.

Thinking of how burning down a city for fun and profit is nothing new.  There’s a book we should all read, by some epidemiologists  (I think Chomsky put me onto it) called

A Plague on Your Houses: How New York Was Burned Down and National Public Health Crumbled


Thinking how this is becoming a lightning rod, the visible manifestation of the years of austerity, just another name for class and race war against the most vulnerable people in society.

There is a growing sense of anger and frustration among the crowds gathered under the Westway flyover where volunteers are sorting and boxing donations.

One volunteer, Sinead O’Hare, said the fire and loss of life had tapped into a deeper sense of resentment and alienation.

“People are angry about years of Tory policy of cutting corners and costs, and refusing to take responsibility. The interests of the Tory party are closely allied to the interests of business and private landlords,” she said. SOURCE

I lived in a tower block for two years. Doesn’t count, because I felt totally safe because it was owned by University of Salford, and they took safety seriously.

And I think of how long and hard the Grenfell Action Group fought. And how they got fobbed off, threatened, ignored.  Condescended to.  I have some inkling of what it is like to go up against an incompetent and dismissive bureaucracy, a bunch of smug sneering wastes of space.

And I hear the usual cries of “never again.”

And I have  simple questions for the left.  Do we believe these claims?  Do we remember how they were made before?  And are we willing and able to think about how WE, as citizens, together,  have to make sure that this is indeed the last time that children, old people, frail people, ANY people die like this?

And do we know how to do it?  Because marches and demonstrations and appeals to the great and the good will not do this.    Getting a new government will help, sure, but how many disasters have happened under allegedly progressive/”left” governments?  How much of the insolence and arrogance and venality and inertia is baked in?

Do we understand that getting the right policy, by forcing elected politicians to make that policy, is the BEGINNING of the battle, not the end?  That implementation is often where it all falls down?

Are we willing to develop the capacity to fight back against bureaucratic inertia?

(I genuinely believe that bureaucrats take the attitude “well, if we give in on this, where would it all end? We’d have to do x, and then y, and then z. Far easier to block block block until this lot give up and piss off. The next lot will come at this with zero experience, and can be blocked and fobbed off.  We need to lower expectations and keep them low.”


Or we can stick to our same old round of smugosphere and middleclass delusional emotacycles, and watch as more working class people and people of colour and vulnerable people die.   What kind of ally is that?


Citizens Gathering – we need new institutions

Last night I went to a “meeting” of, oh, let’s call it “Citizens Gathering”. After 90 minutes I came away with a very small amount of new information (nothing that I couldn’t have learnt by reading a three minute blog post) and a lot of suspicions confirmed.

I have put the word meeting in scare quotes because we were not encouraged to, um, meet, anyone.  Instead after three speeches (the second and third mercifully shorter than the first) the floor was open to… mostly more speeches and exhortations, declarations of faith. As for the question of what we do next – well, demonstrations, obvs.  One on Saturday. Another in July. Then the Tories come to Manchester in October.  There was some marginal acknowledgement that this was not enough, and that a recent thing had not gone well, but nowt concrete on what is to be done differently.

I could go on for hours, but instead I will quote one of the new Labour MPs, Marsha de Cordova

“I haven’t got the final figures, but turnout on some of our estates, among the more impoverished communities, increased massively. What’s really important is we keep these young people who have been volunteering involved and engaged, and all the CLPs have to be really opening and welcome. But I also want us to look at how we can change the dynamic and do different things to keep them engaged, because local party meetings can be pretty dry.”

It seemed to me that most (all?) of the people there were established activists (I base this on how people spoke, how they described themselves).  I didn’t see any nervous/confused looking new people.  Which is a relief,  to me at least, because it would in my opinion have been an intensely alienating experience.

Basically, we have all the organisations we need. We need different habits of meeting that help new people integrate, that help us find out what each others’ knowledge and skills are, that make the creation of new relationships and ‘weak ties’ easier.  Holding specific networking events, or doing it ‘in the pub’ is not adequate.

So, I made some predictions beforehand.  I did relatively well (#fishbarrel)



My friend suggested three other criteria

Prediction Correct/Incorrect comments
It will be very ‘dramatic with regard to language Yep  
It’s gonna be the system’s fault Oddly not! A few mentions of ‘neoliberalism’, maybe one or two of capitalism, but mostly about Theresa May….
“Planning” is only part of the title. Concrete, actionable, and actually game-changing plans will be absent.    


Other points

To be clear, I do not blame the facilitator – she did as good a job as you could expect. It was the format and the rituals of the meeting that were the damage. And that’s ALL our fault .   Having one person speak and 26 listen is incredibly inefficient. It encourages people to use everyone else as ego-fodder to meet their emotional needs.   But my effort to suggest a relatively minor innovation sank without trace, of course.  Oh well.

At one point someone acknowledged that there will be more problems after a possible Corbyn Prime Ministership begin.  And he said – totally incorrectly, imo- “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”   Nope. We need to be building the structures to hold any future Labour government’s feet to the fire.  Has the experience of living under the total Labour dominance of Manchester City Council taught us nothing?  Seems not.

The  turnout at this thing was mostly plus 40 (or 50). There were about 6 of the 27 there who were under 30 I reckon. Everyone white. Male to female ration 2:1.



Film Review: The Mummy

mummy.jpg“The horror, the horror” said Kurtz.  He may have been talking about this film, which as a horror movie is a horror.

Tom Cruise is some sort of US army Indiana Jones (I’d love to see his job description) who stumbles on a tomb in Iraq of an Egyptian naughty daddy-killing and inevitably not-quite-dead princess, played gamely by Sofia Boutella. As you do  (contra the other negative reviews, I think they explain the Egypt/Iraq thing adequately).  Meanwhile, in London, the Crossrail tunnel excavation stumbles on a tomb of some crusaders who brought… back…

Oh look, you really don’t want to know.

There’s a lot of stumbling in this film.  Stumbling over cliches, stumbling over plot holes, stumbling over some of the most painful dialogue every committed to page/papyrus/stone tablets.

There is one indescribably bad scene involving Russel Crowe and some drugs which made me think that everyone involved in the writing, pitching, greenlighting, casting, directing etceteraing of this movie must have been on drugs.  And not good ones either.

It’s more boring than that Crossrail tunnel machine.  It’s cliches are older than the Mummy herself.  The lack of chemistry between the stars is startling.  NOTHING about this film works, not even the destroying bits of London stuff (London has and will be destroyed in far more satisfying fashion).  The tube tracks are missing its third rail, but that’s probably to stop the audience jumping in, a la Purple Rose of Cairo, to put themselves out of their misery.  There are scraps of rotten stuff falling off everywhere – I’m not talking about the Mummy’s artfully arranged bandages (no nipples please, we’re Puritans), I’m talking the vestiges of other films – American Werewolf in London, various zombie films, the aforementioned Indiana Jones.

The one glimmer, that there might be some useful ways of thinking about (female) sexual desire never comes to any kind of, erm, climax.  Other than it is Dangerous and Bad, and will lead either to the end of the world or having your life’s work stolen by some toothy ageing American.

You’ve wasted your time reading this review. I implore you, do not throw good time after bad.

Thoughts on ‘what next’? #2ndGE2017

Interested in any good articles people have read on what happens in the next six months. My thinking, fwiw is this –

May cannot expect to cling on for more than a few months. The DUP deal is inherently unstable, and there are any number of domestic landmines.

The thing that is saving her at the minute (and by the time I finish typing this post things may have changed) is that there is no clear alternative who can fight an election campaign (the conventional wisdom – for what that is worth – expects one in October). Boris Johnson wants the gig, but his negatives are very very high. Amber Rudd is in a real marginal constituency now. Fallon, Hammond etc – give me a break. Ruth Davidson is an MSP, not an MP, so would have to be parachuted into a safe seat – not an easy thing to do on the sly.

Labour now look like “winners” – apparently lots of people have been googling ‘join Labour’. Problems for them are

a) risk of cult of personality

b) boring people with boring meetings

c) sustaining momentum (no pun intended).

d) Its EU/Brexit position – hmmm – will it be able to finesse the issue? Will we see a rise of the remainers?

Mainstream media seems a bit stuffed in terms of its ability to influence voters (young people just do not buy newspapers).

As Craig Murray writes

I suspect that what happened is that the mainstream media realised it is losing influence, and tried to compensate by becoming so shrill and biased it simply lost all respect. This election may be the one where social media finally routed the press barons. They may in turn start to wonder if it is worth sinking millions into a newspaper if it can’t buy an election

So, the government loses its majority thanks to dead/retiring MPs, no way ending austerity because nobody would believe them, no way of continuing it because of unwhippable marginal MPs (Zac Goldsmith).  Heathrow decision still not made, Brexit negotiations going horribly.

Big business will be furious. I mean, beyond furious.

A general election in October-November, by which time May will have been replaced (everybody knows she cannot campaign her way across a wheatfield).

Labour, with extra resources, targets lots of the marginals, wins more seats, ends up with say 300, taken from Tories and SNP. Forms government?

Am I dreaming? What am I missing??