The Thick of It

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

London Labour - leading the march to a sustainable future

Ever since working at Defra after graduation a few years ago I've taken a keen interest in London's environmental sustainability. My focus then was waste management and London's problem then was, and remains, how to look after it's own problems. Traditionally London has used Kent and Essex to dump most waste in landfills. Since becoming Mayor Ken Livingstone has proactively sought to tackle this problem, publishing his London Waste Strategy in 2003. since we have seen a Green Procurement Code rolled out to local authorities and many companies while recycling has increased greatly.

However, yesterday's announcement of the Climate Change Action Plan for London took Mayor Livingstone's commitment to a sustainable future for London a way ahead of anything suggested by anyone else in the UK to date, including cuddly Dave.

Central to the Plan is the thesis that using fewer resources can be economically beneficial rather than damaging. This makes sense, use less to be more efficient and lower your bills. The Mayor has set out plans for reducing carbon emissions for all key sectors excepting aviation, which is another special and hard to tackle case needing international action. The plan aims to cut CO2 emissions to 60% of 1990 levels by 2025, way ahead of Kyoto targets.

It is also encouraging that Ken is supported by both Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. I know from my time at Defra that government environmental claims were often slammed by campaign groups as being insufficient or wrong. If they support the London plan it must be robust.

What this plan also says to me is that Labour can be at the vanguard of tackling climate change, far ahead of the Tories and Lib Dems. Nationally actual progress might be slower than the promising rhetoric from David Milliband, but in London Livingstone has shown that Labour has answers tour generations’ biggest challenge.

The only similar commitment that springs to mind is Sweden’s aim for an oil free economy by 2020.
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I find City Mayors a great resource for tracking what other cities are up to and what London can learn from elsewhere. At the moment I think everyone else can learn from London's lead on sustaianbility if Ken's plan is implemented. However, he will need to be re-elected for at least a third term to see this through. I see that Richard M Daley has won a fifth term as Chicago's Mayor having ruled the Windy City since 1989 - this following his father Richard J Daley's mayorship of the same city from 1955 to 1976. If Ken can't make it that far himself, I think Labour needs to.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Same old Tories

Current mood: annoyed

The more I hear of "Dave" on the radio the more he confirms my view that the Tories haven't changed their views but have simply changed their media image. Having thought this would be the case when Cameron took over in charge of the Tories, I'm finding this to be increasingly so. At first I thought perhaps real policies were not there because he hadn't had the time to write them. This was being generous when you consider that "cuddly Dave" was responsible for writing something of the night Michael Howard's general election manifesto in 2005.

The more I am forced to listen to Dave on breakfast radio the more I see that the media are prepared to give him the time to say what he wants without challenge. Further, the more I listen, the more I realise that he is being givren the chance his predecessors were not given. However, when I listen I realise that the message hasn't changed from the one I grew up despising, from Thatcher and her crowd.One savvy move Dave has made is to stop babbling on about Europe and sovereignty. This argument made Hague and Duncan-Smith seem like one trick donkeys. This example is apt because Dave is still very anti-Europe, most aptly demonstrated by his taking the Tory MEPs our of the European People's Party in the European Parliament, leaving them to group with the racists and facists, who are all anti EU.

Dave talks about wanting to tackle poverty, because he has to because Labour has shifted the epicentre of debate over the last 15 years. However, once again, when Dave talks about poverty, he seems more interested in "getting government our of people's lives," cutting red tape and letting charities, churches and social groups deal with poverty. He also talks about letting companies get on with doing the right thing (for example) by looking after their employees. This is a folly and never likely to happen but is linked to his hatred of the EU - the very body that guarantees environmental and social rights in our country and across Europe.

In London Dave's Tories want to stop our teenagers getting free bus travel. At the last election his manifesto included the national minimum wage as red tape. This is what we have to fight and think long and hard about if we are going to let the Tories back in again. We don't want Thatcherism again.