Bono and Bob Geldof, whom God preserve, are much more than your average celebrity campaigner. They don’t just care about their chosen issues, they know about them too, real genuine knowledge, and they know how to use the influence that their status and knowledge brings.
They have campaigned pretty tirelessly, and in many different ways, to make world leaders face up to their responsibility in helping the poorest countries of the world to help themselves. This Labour government can be very proud of its record on Africa, and Bono and Bob can be proud of the role they have played too.
Which brings me to Copenhagen, and the climate change summit which is now just 100 days away. Why? Because there will be many and varied campaigns taking shape between now and then, but ultimately it will only be though political leadership that significant decisions will be taken and then followed through.
What Bono and Bob have shown is that sometimes the role of the campaigner is to put pressure on the leaders, but in a spirit of partnership. And what leaders have often shown is that far from being a hindrance, that pressure can be a help. I remember before one summit, TB saying to them that he welcomed the pressure, because he could use it to persuade other leaders to move in our direction.
That same kind of alliance is possible in relation to Copenhagen. The British government wants a meaningful, significant deal. They have carved out a good position within a lot of the arguments taking place. But the more they can be seen to be speaking for campaigners for reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and public opinion more generally, the better.
So I am pleased to see Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband positively encouraging views, feedback and pressure as the 100 day countdown begins, not least by inviting comments, arguments and suggestions to his new website, www.edspledge.com.
I enjoyed the accusation of being like a stuck record yesterday, when I was banging on about Dave’s lack of meaningful policy on public services, other than a desire to run them down. At the risk of the record becoming stuck again, I ask you to contrast a Labour government taking the climate change issues seriously with a Tory leader who loves having his picture taken in designer arctic clothes with huskies, but stands up against the measures needed to address perhaps the most serious issue we face.
He and his party’s councils around the country seem to view wind farms not as an essential part of a new approach, but dismiss them as ‘bird-blenders.’ They oppose the Planning Act which would is designed to help pave the way for greater investment in low carbon energy. They want to scrap the Renewables Obligation. Their position on nuclear energy changes according to who they are speaking to.
And of course his European policy, and his jumping into bed with people who are in the climate change denial camp, would reduce Britain to the margins of a debate in which currently we have influence.
I know it is the done thing, when a pollster stops you in the street, to say the Tories have better policies on this, that and the other, even if people have no idea what those policies are. Hence last night’s ludicrous Newsnight poll purporting to say schools would have been better if the Tories had been in power. Yeah, we’d all get better educated with bigger classes, fewer teachers and bloody great holes in the roof.
The Tories do well in issues polls because nobody has a clue what their policies are. They have that in common with many senior Tories. But on climate change, their policies are bad, and dangerous, and people ought to know it.