Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is your MP a climate-change denier?

I'm a hopeless optimist. I can't quite believe what I've just read.

The Local Government Association's First magazine this week runs a story with a positive headline: 'Key green role for councils - MPs' based on a survey of the honourable members of Britain's lower house. But read on to the third paragraph: of the 168 MPs surveyed 11% rejected the claim that climate change is occurring. I'm not sure whether that statistic is the most depressing or whether it's that a further 8% of our esteemed legislators ticked the box which said 'I don't know.'

By my reckoning, that survey suggests about 70 MPs are climate-change deniers. And another 50 are even more stupid than that. But the question is: who can list them?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Housing for Oxford: Labour misses the opportunity

So, Ms Blears announced, like the Fairy Godmother to Cinderella, that Oxford can have an urban extension. People will rush to fight over whether south of Grenoble Road is the best place to build, but in scrambling to do so, they'll miss the bigger issue.

What has been announced, from what I have seen, is that an estate of 4,000 houses, 40% of them affordable, can be built in that area. If Andrew Smith imagines that that is anywhere near large enough even to dent substantially the housing crisis this city and this county faces, he just doesn't appreciate the magnitude of the problem.

The Secretary of State's response to the Structure Plan was a real opportunity for the government to call for a strategic vision for solving the crisis -- and that must begin a review of the whole Green Belt. But, as so often, they've bungled their chance and missed an open goal.

Those of us who believe in the concept of the Green Belt and want to see it last would have supported a proper, full review. There is nothing worse than a piecemeal removal of one section from the Belt, allowing the argument to be made in the next decade that a precedent has been set and yet one more section should also be removed -- and so it will go, decade after decade. On the other side, of course, are the Tories who stand for no building anywhere: they can't even seen the housing crisis beyond the gates at the end of their manicured lawn. But their attitude that the Green Belt, in its present format, is sacrosanct in every regard is equally unsustainable. Their friends, the developers, will see to that. In the meantime, there are people in desperate need and it should be our first duty to help them. Sadly, once again, the Conservatives have shown they aren't in on it and Labour that they aren't up to it.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

With friends like these

I'm not sure that this one has reached the British press yet: a diplomatic incident has occurred concerning President Bush and his proclaimed 'good friend' Silvio Berlusconi, the 'colourful' PM of Italy.

Showing their typical sensitivity to those curious species, foreigners, the White House helpfully explained to journos traipsing around after Bush at the G8 who Mr Berlusconi actually is. Translating back from the Italian version, he is, apparently, 'one of the most controversial leaders in a country known for government corruption', 'a dilettante in politics' etc etc.

They could have mentioned his greater strengths: how he's very adept at dodging prison terms by changing the law, how he's a great friend (making his dentist a minister) and how, even in his advanced years, his virility is unabashed -- at least on the phone to his more attractive female ministers. That the White House does not do so is surely a mark of previously hidden leftist sympathies...

The real insult is, of course, not on Berlusconi, but on the Italian nation. Now, some may say they deserve it, as they voted for him, just as Londoners have woken up with a sore head and Boris Johnson right there in their bed. But the implication of the White House's press-pack is that Berlusconi epitomises a country given to corruption, something, of course, which would never happen in the land of Halliburton. It reminds me of the scene in Godfather II when the WASP politician, Senator Geary, rails against Corleone and his whole nation:
I don't like your kind of people. I don't like to see you come out to this clean country in oily hair and dressed up in those silk suits, and try to pass yourselves off as decent Americans. I'll do business with you but the fact is that I despise your masquerade, the dishonest way you pose yourself. Yourself and your whole fucking family.
And look what happened to him.