If you need any reminder of the challenge facing Ed Miliband as he works for a deal at the Copenhagen climate change summit, look no further than today’s interview in the Financial Times with the elected mayor in Ed’s Doncaster seat.
Peter Davies surprised even himself when he was elected mayor standing for English Democrats, winning support for his anti-European, anti-immigration, pro-capital punishment views. The fact that he will not have the power to bring back the death penalty for pro-European immigrants in Doncaster is neither here not there. He was elected and now has considerable powers to make life better or worse for the people of Doncaster.
It is his views on the environment that show how far Ed has to go before building a consensus view on the importance of tackling climate change. Davies is seeking to reverse a policy of encouraging more people to use public transport, by getting rid of the town’s ‘quality bus corridor.’
In tones reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher’s view that if you were still using public transport over the age of 30, you’d failed in life, Davies says ‘People in cars spend more than people on buses. Why wouldn’t we want them?’
Seeking to portray himself as the underdog, he says the shift will not be easy because ‘we have arrayed against us the climate change alarmists and green fools, who want us all to eat lettuce and live in caves.’
Beware politicians who portray themselves as ‘only speaking commonsense’ and then talk utter bilge. Let me just repeat his line … ‘climate change alarmists and green fools, who want us to eat lettuce and live in caves.’ A nice line for a climate-change denying colimnist in a right-wing tabloid maybe, but as the intellectual basis for an important policy choice, I’m not sure is stacks up.
Elsewhere in the FT, their Weekend Magazine front cover story is based on interviews with climate change scientists, and one sceptic who thinks, as Davies appears to, that the whole climate change argument is a con.
The views of the other scientists are worth reading. At least, unlike Davies with his lettuce and caves, they are based on research and fact, not prejudice and anecdote.
And whilst I imagine the people of Cumbria have more pressing things to do with their time today than put up their feet and read the FT, the link between what they are having to cope with post-flood, and the arguments put forward by some of the scientists, seems pretty compelling to me.
So my good wishes remain with Ed Miliband as he strives for progress at Copenhagen. And with the people of Doncaster that they don’t regret too much the choice they have made.