This is the first of a series of podcasts which I am doing with Simon Allen, a politically astute friend from Radstock. The focus is on the budget although inevitably we range widely.
It was recorded on 17 November so some matters have moved on but the general subject matter still rings true.
Since this is our first one there is some repetition but I hope it will fill the time on your journey to work and provoke some thoughts of your own.
Can we capture the good-natured passion without aggression of Harry Leslie Smith to take time to explain to those we meet that the environment IS about food, shelter and safety.
A few days ago I heard the news that Harry Leslie Smith has had a fall and is in hospital. He describes himself as ‘the world’s oldest rebel’, with pride and delight. He uses his energy and outspokenness to the full to comment on topics like Brexit, immigration, the NHS, and war.
For most of us that kind of idealism gets modified as we age. We begin to grasp the complexity of human systems and understand that they, of themselves, are not malevolent. We see how change is a long process and that the upending of the status quo is not in and of itself a good thing. Our perception of time changes. We take the longer view. We – hopefully – become more tolerant and accepting and compassionate.
The trouble is we’re now faced with something that isn’t going to yield to long solutions. The urgency with which we should be addressing environmental degradation and climate change messes with our heads and with all we think we know about how to do things.
I’ve just watched a short video, on the Guardian website, of a confrontation in London between a climate change protestor in the Extinction Rebellion group, and a man whose car has been stopped by the protestors blocking the road. Very clearly for the film, although possibly quite unaware he was being filmed at that moment, the furious man says he doesn’t care about the environment. He’s likely to be in a place where it’s really hard to have the time to understand what’s going on because he’s hell-bent on survival, and it’s entirely natural that given the pressures of life he should feel like that.
"We need to take the time and have the patience"
But those of us who know that the environment means food and shelter and safety, the very things he’s pursuing for his family, assuming he has one, we need to take the time and have the patience to sit down endlessly with everyone and explain it, again and again; not caring about the environment is no longer an option on the human table. We need to wed our adolescent passion and drive and hopefulness to our mature patience and acceptance and harness them to an attempt to ‘change the world’; no more and certainly no less.
Who has the patience to engage like this with people on the ‘opposite side’ of whatever divide we’re contemplating, be it Brexit, climate science, immigration or anything else? Harry Leslie Smith always seems so good-natured and capable of arguing with passion but without aggression. A great role-model for all of us.
Today the EU Council of Ministers (the government of the EU) will approve the terms of the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Commentators are calling this "the deal" but, in fact, this is just the start of a process for determining our future relationship with the EU.
Boris Johnson urges parliament, in his characteristic simplistic way, "to junk the deal". Indeed this seems to be the dominant view across parliament. But given the EU will not renegotiate the arrangement are we now at a deadlock? Will the Prime Minister realise that an exit from the EU is not possible to deliver and that an Exit from Brexit is now the desirable outcome?
I hope so for the sake of all the people of North East Somerset.
As politically engaged people I’m sure we can agree that change is both necessary and frustratingly slow. As a retired psychotherapist I believe that political and social change is slow because to be meaningful it can’t be a mere tinkering with systems but must be underpinned by the evolution of people’s consciousness and the winning over of hearts and minds. Tempting as it often appears and has appeared through history to many, the oppressive controlling of fellow humans has never proved to be a long-functioning proposition.
However, uniquely in the human story we now face something so dangerous that it’s forcing all thoughtful people to re-evaluate the existing political means and methods. And no, I’m not talking about Brexit, sad as that makes me, but about climate change or more properly and broadly environmental degradation. This of course encompasses everything from the global effects of climate change to the popular cause of plastic sea-pollution to more local issues such as fracking and air quality around schools, and all of the other ills we’ve conjured up in our glee with apparent ‘progress’.
So the dilemma is that true progressive change is slow but environmental degradation is now upon us and will very soon – arguably now – necessitate some actions that are going to appear to be and felt to be draconian and backwards by much of the world’s populace.
For instance; a dramatic reduction in flying. I’ve been, personally, alternately amused and deeply frustrated by the obvious displacement activity of banning plastic straws when some of the same people who advocate this action so enthusiastically will justify to themselves another leisure flight, because after all they’ve been so busy and stressed working to protect the oceans that they now deserve that break, don’t they?
I think we urgently need to redefine what we accept as quality of life in terms that, rather than valuing the material and the exciting things and experiences that our egos crave that prove to be damaging to the environment, we learn anew to value the small and local and harmless. Don’t go on a safari to look at the dying elephants, check out the wildlife in your own garden.
And avoid the stress of the airport while you’re at it!
Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society
Nick Coates writes: “This is the stark warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the leading global body for assessing the science related to climate change and its impacts.
“Global human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and to reach net zero by around 2050. We would need to make changes to the way we use of land and energy. This has important consequences for industry, buildings, cities and transport. This affects all of us and requires all of us to act.
“If we succeed in limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC then, for example by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower and instead of losing all our coral reefs they “only” decline by 70-90%. Hardly a big win but these are just illustrations.
And this affects the UK too. An unpublished Environment Agency report estimated that over 7,000 homes on our coast would be “lost to rising seas”.
“The IPCC assessment demonstrates that policy makers at all levels must knuckle down and focus on tackling climate change whilst taking account of the local context and people’s needs.
How we react to this new challenge of climate change over the next few years will probably be the most important in our history.”
The Chancellor announces his budget today. One announcement being trumpeted is that of business rates relief for smaller outlets. This does not address the real issues. As Vince Cable says “hand to mouth support isn’t sustainable … There must be a fundamental change in the system”.
The Liberal Democrats want to abolish business rates and replace it with a tax on land values, the Commercial Landowner Levy. The levy would remove buildings and machinery from calculations and tax only the land value of commercial sites, boosting investment and cutting taxes for businesses in nine out of ten English local authorities.
Vince Cable said “We must create a level playing field between the high street and online retailers.”
Nick Coates agreed adding “the Tories are playing with old solutions while the retail world has changed and is continuing to change. Our solution addresses this with a forward looking solution.”
Today Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, will lead a debate in the House of Lords arguing the case for a People's Vote on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Menzies Campbell said "The Brexiters never told the country that a decision to leave would result in the depreciation of the pound, an increase in inflation and a rise in the cost of living. But sadly the public have been failed by an incoherent and incompetent Tory Government whose divisions and internal strife undermine the United Kingdom.
“We do not know what, if anything, the final package will be that is put before Parliament. However, the chances of it being approved by the Commons melt by the hour as bitterness and abuse replace loyalty and respect.
“If ever there was a need for pause for thought it is now. That is why nearly 700,000 members of the public marched through the streets of London last Saturday calling for the people to have the final say on any deal.”
Nick Coates, LibDem parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset and contesting the seat against arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, was one of the 700,000 marching through London last Saturday. He said, "I am calling on MPs across the parties to start taking this matter seriously and consider what is best for the country. In my view that means remaining in the EU."
As the Lib Dem Climate Change Secretary, I think it’s an utter disgrace that Trump is preparing to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement. He clearly has utter contempt for science and the planet.
What’s also disgraceful is Theresa May’s failure to challenge him. Where are the Conservatives’ priorities? Where’s their foresight? Where’s their courage?
The Liberal Democrats are calling on Theresa May to urgently speak out and oppose Donald Trump’s planned withdrawal. Why?
Because the deal was the result of two decades of international negotiations – a huge positive step forward for the future of humanity. And now, because of political insanity and cowardice, it’s on the brink of unravelling. This could be a disaster for our environment and a betrayal of every generation to come.
North East Somerset Candidate, Manda Rigby commented,
'Here in North East Somerset, our current MP wants to take us back a century or two and introduce fracking which will wreck our local environment and potentially devastate our water supply. By voting LibDem we can stop this atrocity.'
It's time for Theresa May to speak out. She must join the Liberal Democrats and the global scientific community, in condemning President Trump publicly.
This is too important for Britain to stay silent.
If you support our progressive policies on the environment, vote Lib Dem on 8th June.
In the leaders’ debate, Tim Farron did what he always does: he held the other parties’ feet to the fire.
With style and substance, he called them out on their failures and communicated a positive vision for Britain’s future.
Theresa May, meanwhile, didn’t even show up – demonstrating her complacency and utter disdain for the British people.
Here are five times Tim Farron came out on top:
When he exploded Twitter by asking where Theresa May was: “She might be outside, sizing up your house”.
When he called out Corbyn for supporting Brexit: “If Jeremy cared, he would not have trooped through the lobbies with the Conservatives and UKIP to trigger Article 50.”
When he scolded UKIP and the Tories for their anti-immigration policies: “The Conservative immigration policy is written to appease UKIP.”
When he celebrated European unity and shared values in the face of terrorism: “We must stand together with our neighbours to fight it.”
When he said the British people’s time would be better spent watching Bake Off than listening to Theresa May: “She can’t be bothered, so why should you?”