Here we are again, with a Conservative government, following yet another God-awful General Election. Not only has the UK (and our friends across the pond), been force-fed political drama since GE2015, we were recently subjected to Theresa Mayhem’s ‘Snap Election’.
The fallout from June 8 has caused a freefall political storm. The Conservatives, although technically won the most seats, spectacularly failed in their attempts to boost their majority in the House of Commons. The gains made by underdog Labour, and The Boy Jeremy, were unprecedented. In the wake of voting day’s exit polls, you could almost feel the tension reach a torrid level in Tory HQ, as the realisation struck that Ms May’s over-confident gamble had crashed and burned.
It now seems to be a watch-and-wait drama, as the struggling Conservative Party tries to cobble together some semblance of governance with the DUP. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has reached virtual cult status, with polling now running more favourably in Corbyn’s direction, due to his humanity and leadership shining through, whilst Maybot’s rigid, unfeeling stance is unpalatable.
The UK is left absorbing the aftershocks of three murderous terrorist attacks in the UK, a horrific blaze at Grenfell Tower, which is still painfully unfolding into more tragic loss for the London community, and the continued knock-on political effects of the General Election.
This is a time when our country could do with some “strong and stable” leadership, as promised, but the rhetoric has proved to be nothing more than worn-out spin that failed to inspire confidence in May as a Prime Minister.
Environment Misses Out
Environmentally, the Conservative Manifesto was left nothing short of wanting. The majority of pledges were industrial and business-orientated blah, with not so much a sprinkling of environmental fervour. Oh, aside from this throwaway comment:
“We pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.”
Not a sniff of a mention of the air pollution crisis in London – even after the government repeatedly lost a case where ClientEarth took them to court over the escalating levels of toxic air. Air pollution is thought to be responsible for 40,000 deaths a year in the UK. The judge ordered that the government must publish a draft policy immediately without delay, due to the risk of public health. The then Environment Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, was said to be in breach of a court order to take action in the shortest possible time and that any additional delays would be found to be a further breach.
The actual publication of the government’s plans to reduce air pollution levels have failed to provide any substantial solutions and already, ClientEarth is heading back to the court room to challenge the government once again. James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth said of the government’s draft Air Quality Plan:
“We have found some major flaws. The law requires the final plan to bring air pollution down to legal levels in the shortest time possible. These flaws seriously jeopardise that timetable.”
Gove The Smiling Butcher
May, in all of her strong and stable wisdom, decided that the right person for the Environment Secretary was Michael Gove. A man who struggles to stay upright. A man who is pro-fracking, pro-fox hunting, pro-badger culling and who also voted consistently to sell off the UK’s state-owned forests. He also voted against measures to prevent climate change.
We’ve effectively placed the equivalent of Mr Bean in charge of our environment.
Never forget that this is a man who successfully pissed-off an entire nation of teaching professionals and ruined educational standards. Remember all the mass chaos Gove caused whilst Education Secretary? King James Bibles issued to all students (assuming all children follow the Christian faith – WTF?), increasing academy-status schools from 203 up to a whopping 4095, butchering the National Curriculum, alienating teachers UK-wide…and many more negatives over his four painful years in office. His out-of-touch meddling drew wide criticism and his lack of respect for those who were actually qualified in education, was stark.
Gove is now holding a job where he is responsible for the entire environmental standards of the UK. Forgive me if I don’t feel too hopeful. According to Wiki, Gove’s main job role within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will be to:
- bear overall responsibility for all Departmental issues
- represent the United Kingdom at the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council, and at the EU Environment Council
- lobby for the United Kingdom in other international negotiations on sustainable development and climate change
The last responsibility is interesting, because within the Conservative’s Manifesto, climate change was not once mentioned. Not once
In April this year, the Earth critically breached its atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for the first time ever. Levels were measured at 410 parts per million (ppm). The El Niño phenomenon has contributed somewhat to driving up the carbon dioxide levels present, but it’s undeniable that fossil fuel extraction and burning is responsible for a vast amount.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has requested an urgent meeting with Michael Gove, on tackling the air pollution crisis, in the hope of pressing the government into immediate action to reduce the toxic levels in London. Gove will also be required to defend the government on its air pollution policy failure in the High Court.
Queen’s (pared-down) Speech
The Tories have always had a penchant for fossil fuels and maximising their recovery. But an interesting turn of events, were the offerings contained within the 2017 Manifesto that didn’t make it to the Queen’s Speech. May’s shambolic election results lost her Party 13 seats, instead of the anticipated 50+ gain for the Tories. Let’s be blunt: the Tories got spanked.
May announced during campaigning for the GE, one of her most controversial policies: a free vote on fox hunting. This vile and archaic ‘sport’ announcement was instantly decried by all who are gifted with a soul, yet the braying mass of rabble who are fond of a good old animal murder scene could be seen rejoicing across the media.
Fortunately, fox hunting was not present within the Queen’s Speech. Another major that was omitted was shale gas. Unappealing masses of voters in license areas, and with Ryedale and Lancashire first in the firing line for climate-wrecking fracking, the Tories promised to:
“…legislate to change planning law for shale applications. Non-fracking drilling will be treated as permitted development, expert planning functions will be established to support local councils, and, when necessary, major shale planning decisions will be made the responsibility of the National Planning Regime.”
This basically translates as Westminster micro-managing regional councils and removing decisions from council development committees, as we have seen in Lancashire, with Sajid Javid as Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities. Last October, he overruled Lancashire County Council’s refusal of Cuadrilla’s application to frack on the Fylde Coast. The loss of local democracy was shameful.
Whether central government interference and top-down pressure on councils to approve shale applications will continue, isn’t clear, but Ms May and Co don’t have the strong and stable majority to forge ahead without scrutiny any longer. The Conservatives are now the only party who are backing fracking. Investors should rightly feel wobbly.
This week, it was reported that the Conservatives were planning to block the full EU ban on neonicotinoids – the bee-destroying pesticide. Fortunately, the Tory MEP who was pushing for the block, Julie Girling, failed in her attempts.
All renewable energy has suffered a messy demise since the Tories took sole power in 2015, seeing a virtual collapse of the budding solar industry while the frackers received liberal tax breaks. Amber Rudd, in her former role as secretary of state for energy and climate change, drove a 64% slash in solar subsidies, effectively wiping out the solar industry in the UK. Many renewable business closures, bankruptcies and job losses resulted from this regressive policy implementation.
Hinkley Point C, the white elephant in the room, was a Conservative project that seemed destined for failure before it was even constructed. This week, the National Audit Office declared:
“The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s deal for Hinkley Point C has locked consumers into a risky and expensive project with uncertain strategic and economic benefits.”
So there you have it. Another mammoth bill of taxpayers’ cash for a nuclear nightmare that will be foist upon the UK. This is of course in addition to the mounting uncertainty of EDF’s novel reactor technology that has not yet been successfully used anywhere globally.
One particular sentence within the Manifesto, under Our Principles, stands out glaringly as Tory hypocrisy, and couldn’t be any further from the misery served-up daily from the current government:
“We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality.”
Yesterday, France banned all new oil and gas exploration. A law will be prepared and passed in the autumn, beginning the change to a cleaner future. France is pushing forward with a green, renewable industry, led by Emmanuel Macron’s new government. This is a prize move and once again, Britain is shown-up for its backwards and archaic approach to energy solutions.
With the ever-growing cavernous hole that is Brexit, dominating the media headlines, it’s hard to predict what will happen next. With Mr Gove now driving environmental policy, it’s very hard to remain positive.
Teetering precariously on their scant majority, propped-up by the controversial DUP, the Conservatives are in a vulnerable position throughout. The next few months will be crucial on how the government proceed with environmental issues. Under the steer of Michael Gove, I really don’t anticipate much progression.