Friday, 29 November 2019

Political parties prioritise climate change.. except the Tories

A letter writer in today's Times newspaper complained that politicians have not prioritized climate change in their manifestos. Here is my response:

Your correspondent Lesley Boase (“Climate change and election campaigns,” The Times, 29 November 2019; asks “why isn’t urgent action climate change at the top of [political parties’] manifestos”?
The day before the letter appeared, the Labour Party launched its 48-page manifesto for the environment ‘A Plan for the Environment’.(

At its launch in Southampton (briefly covered in The Times' ‘Red Box’, Nov 29), Mr Corbyn stressed”
“The reality is this election is our last chance to tackle the climate and environment emergency,” in setting out “Labour’s plan for real change to protect our planet and restore our natural world.” He added: “We have no time to waste…we have a choice. We can shut our eyes, cross our fingers and entrust our fate to a system that has already driven our planet to the brink of catastrophe. Or we can do everything possible to tackle the biggest threat we face.(
The opening of the foreword to the Green Party manifest states: “Above all, the climate and environmental emergency rages from the Amazon to the Arctic. The science is clear – the next ten years are probably the most important in our history.”

The first chapter – 27 pages of an 88 page the document  - sets out in great detail the party’s ‘Green New Deal’ offer, opening with  these words: ” In 2019, we face a collective challenge greater than we have faced for decades. The climate we all rely on is breaking down.”(

Admittedly the Conservative manifesto has slim pickings on climate change (,Although Boris Johnson does make the ‘guarantee’ in his introduction over ““Reaching Net Zero by 2050 with investment in clean energy solutions and green infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions and pollution.”

But he then failed to turn up to the only leaders’ debate specifically on climate change and the environment  held on Channel Four on  28 November, to explain or defend Conservative party policies. (“Tories left on ice in TV debate as leaders vie for climate credentials,” 29 November 2019;

Lesley Boase should try reading the manifestos before going into print condemning their lack of attention to climate change.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

The importance of facts in the debate over anti-semitism

Letter sent to The Times:

I am not Jewish, but do have several Jewish friends of very long standing. I am however an experienced researcher, and would like to correct several points made in the articles you published (“Labour antisemitism: how the charge sheet grew,” 26 November 2019; ) putting the Chief Rabbi’s very strong article on anti-semitism and the Labour Party leadership into context.(“Ephraim Mirvis: What will become of Jews in Britain if Labour forms the next government?”, 26 November 2019, )


One assertion under the ‘charge sheet’ list made by your deputy political editor, Steven Swinford, was that former Labour politician and London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, “claimed that Hitler had supported Zionism.” This is a misleading simplification of a very complex period of history in 1930s Germany.

I searched the on line documentation publicly accessible and found the following  in  two official Jewish archives.

In the summer of 1933, the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the German Zionist 
Federation, and the German Economics Ministry drafted a plan meant to allow
German Jews emigrating to Palestine to retain some of the value of their property in
Germany by purchasing German goods for the Yishuv, [the Jewish population—including the pre-Zionist Jewish community—living in Palestine before the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948] which would redeem them in Palestine local currency. This scheme, known as the Transfer Agreement or Ha’avarah (Hebrew: הסכם העברה), met the needs of all interested parties: German Jews, the German  economy, and the Mandatory Government and the Yishuv in Palestine…


(The Transfer Agreement and the Boycott Movement: A Jewish Dilemma on the Eve of the Holocaust, by Yf’aat Weiss; Shoah Resource Center, The International 2/33 School for Holocaust Studies;


Another document in the archive of the US National Holocaust Memorial  museum in Washington DC on Chaim Weizmann, the  president of the World Zionist Organization during the Nazi era, who was  the first president of Israel, records the following:


“In August 1933, the Zionist Congress nominated Weizmann, to head the Jewish Agency's Department for the settlement of German Refugees. His first action was to try to coordinate and streamline all Jewish relief activities. His efforts met with little success. Weizmann opposed mere philanthropy; he always wished to bring about an organized, carefully controlled immigration of German Jews and other refugees to Palestine” (


A second assertion in the charge sheet was the claim that Mr Corbyn backed the artist, Mear One, ( a pseudomym for Los Angeles  muralist, Kalen Ockerman) who painted a mural which The Times states “depicted a group of Jewish bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of the poor.” (which you reproduced ).

In fact all of the bearded characters depicted were real, very rich Victorian men; but actually only two of them, Warburg and Rothschild, were Jewish. It is in the eye of the beholder to see them all as Jewish.

Such imagery are anti-capitalist tropes, not anti-Jewish ones.

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz reported seven years ago (“Mural in London's One-time Jewish Heart Sparks Debate on anti-Semitism,” Oct 14, 2012;“many residents had shown enthusiasm for the mural and encouraged Ockerman during the painting and were opposed to its removal.”


At such an important time as a General Election facts are important.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Manifest green disinterest from the Tories

The media collectively agreed that the Conservative Party 2019 election manifesto                 (
- published on Sunday- provided slim political or policy pickings, deliberately pared back to avoid the rest of the campaign  becoming a  hostage to fortune of the Tory  Manifesto.

It does, however , contain environmental  and energy policies, including support for more nuclear, both fission and fusion.

One of Boris Johnson’s introductory pledges (he calls them ‘guarantees’ reads: “Reaching Net Zero by 2050 with investment in clean energy solutions

and green infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions and pollution.”


Here are the other green ( or anti-green transport) policies, I have found:

Parliament has voted in principle

to support a third runway at

Heathrow, but it is a private sector

project. It is for Heathrow to

demonstrate that it can meet its air

quality and noise obligations, that

the project can be financed and

built and that the business case is

realistic. The scheme will receive no

new public money. More broadly,

we will use new air traffic control

technology to cut the time aircraft

spend waiting to land, reducing

delays, noise nuisance and pollution.

We will also build on Britain’s

pioneering work in electric and

low-carbon flight.

In the next Parliament, we expect to

train up hundreds of thousands more

highly skilled apprentices. But we will go

further and require significant numbers

of new UK apprentices for all big new

infrastructure projects – new hospitals,

new schools, major transport projects

and so on

Places we want to live in

Beautiful, high-quality homes. We

will ask every community to decide

on its own design standards for new

development, allowing residents a

greater say on the style and design of

development in their area, with local

councils encouraged to build more

beautiful architecture.or new

Environmentally friendly homes. We

will support the creation of new kinds

of homes that have low energy bills

and which support our environmental

targets and will expect all new streets to

be lined with trees.

Homes for the Future. We will

encourage innovative design and

technology to make housing more

affordable, accessible, and suitable

for disabled people and an ageing



The Green Belt. We will protect

and enhance the Green Belt. We will

improve poor quality land, increase

biodiversity and make our beautiful

countryside more accessible for local

community use. In order to safeguard

our green spaces, we will continue to

prioritise brownfield development,

particularly for the regeneration of our

cities and towns.




The Conservatives have pledged £9.2 billion to improve the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals, as they make a pitch to voters concerned about the environment. Funding will include £6.3 billion to install energy saving measures to cut bills in 2.2 million homes, with a focus on social housing and people in fuel poverty, the Tories say. The plans are part of efforts to meet the legal target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero overall by 2050 to tackle climate change. (“Tories pledge £9.2bn toward energy efficiency push in homes, hospitals and schools,” Energy Voice, 25 November 2019

Under the sub-heading  ‘Unleash innovation’ it records:


We need to use science and research

to unite and level up our country,

giving people opportunity and hope.

Once we have got Brexit done, we

will turn our attention to the great

challenges of the future such as clean

energy and advanced energy storage;


We are committing to the fastest

ever increase in domestic public R&D

spending, including in basic science

research to meet our target of 2.4 per

cent of GDP being spent on R&D across

the economy. Some of this new spending

will go to a new agency for high-risk,

high-payoff research, at arm’s length

from government. We will continue to

support our outstanding science sector

as we leave the EU.

We will use our £1 billion Ayrton

Fund to develop affordable and

accessible clean energy that will

improve lives and help us to lead the

world in tackling climate change

Oil and gas sector deal: The oil

and gas industry employs almost

300,000 people, of whom four in 10

work in Scotland. We believe that

the North Sea oil and gas industry

has a long future ahead and know

the sector has a key role to play as

we move to a Net Zero economy.

We will support this transition

in the next Parliament with a

transformational sector deal.

Stewards of our


Our Environment Bill will guarantee

that we will protect and restore our

natural environment after leaving

the EU. Because conservation has

always been at the very heart of


We will set up a new independent

Office For Environmental Protection

and introduce our own legal targets,

including for air quality.

We will invest in nature, helping us

to reach our Net Zero target with a

£640 million new Nature for Climate

fund. Building on our support for

creating a Great Northumberland

Forest, we will reach an additional

75,000 acres of trees a year by the

end of the next Parliament, as well as

restoring our peatland.

We welcome the Glover Review

and will create new National Parks

and Areas of Outstanding Natural

Beauty, as well as making our most

loved landscapes greener, happier,

healthier and open to all. We will

make the coast to coast path

across the most beautiful areas of

the North a National Trail.

We will continue to lead the world

in tackling plastics pollution, both

in the UK and internationally, and

will introduce a new levy to increase

the proportion of recyclable plastics

in packaging. We will introduce

extended producer responsibility,

so that producers pay the full

costs of dealing with the waste

they produce, and boost domestic

recycling. We will ban the export

of plastic waste to non-OECD

countries, consulting with industry,

NGOs and local councils on the

date by which this should be


We will crack down on the waste

and carelessness that destroys

our natural environment and

kills marine life. We will increase

penalties for fly-tipping, make

those on community sentences

clean up their parks and streets,

and introduce a deposit return

scheme to incentivise people to

recycle plastic and glass.


Fight climate

change and

protect the


Conservation is, and always has

been, at the heart of Conservatism.

Our Government’s stewardship of

the natural environment, its focus

on protecting the countryside and

reducing plastic waste, is a source of

immense pride.

But today, the climate emergency

means that the challenges we face

stretch far beyond our borders.

Thanks to the efforts of successive

Governments, the UK has cut carbon

emissions by more than any similar

developed country. We are now the

world’s leader in offshore wind – a

fantastic success story of Government

and the private sector working hand

in hand to cut costs and deliver ever

more electricity at plummeting costs.

Unlike Jeremy Corbyn, we believe

that free markets, innovation and

prosperity can protect the planet.

Yet we recognise that there is far more

that needs to be done.

We will lead the global fight against

climate change by delivering on our

world-leading target of Net Zero

greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,

as advised by the independent

Committee on Climate Change.

We have doubled International

Climate Finance. And we will use

our position hosting the UN Climate

Change Summit in Glasgow in 2020

to ask our global partners to match

our ambition.

We will set up new international

partnerships to tackle deforestation

and protect vital landscapes and

wildlife corridors. We will establish a

new £500 million Blue Planet Fund to

help protect our oceans from plastic

pollution, warming sea temperatures

and overfishing, and extend the

Blue Belt programme to preserve

the maritime environment. We will

continue to lead diplomatic efforts

to protect 30 per cent of the world’s

oceans by 2030.

Our first Budget will prioritise the

environment: investing in R&D;

decarbonisation schemes; new flood

defences, which will receive £4 billion

in new funding over the coming

years; electric vehicle infrastructure

including a national plug-in network

and gigafactory; and clean energy.

In the next decade, we will work with

the market to deliver two million new

high quality jobs in clean growth. We

have ambitious targets:

Our world-leading offshore wind

industry will reach 40GW by 2030,

and we will enable new floating wind


We will invest £800 million to build the

first fully deployed carbon capture

storage cluster by the mid-2020s.

We will invest £500 million to help

energy-intensive industries move to

low-carbon techniques.

We will support gas for hydrogen

production and nuclear energy,

including fusion, as important parts of

the energy system, alongside increasing

our commitment to renewables.

We placed a moratorium on fracking

in England with immediate effect.

Having listened to local communities, we

have ruled out changes to the planning

system. We will not support fracking

unless the science shows categorically

that it can be done safely.

We will help lower energy bills by

investing £9.2 billion in the energy

efficiency of homes, schools and


We will support clean transport to

ensure clean air, as well as setting strict

new laws on air quality. We will consult

on the earliest date by which we can

phase out the sale of new conventional

petrol and diesel cars.

 “We should not doubt Mr Johnson’s environmental credentials. Just look at the way he recycles mouldy gags. The ‘single crouton in the minestrone of Labour’s Brexit policy,’ the ‘just add water’ line about his own EU departure deal: these and other used routines were trotted out again,” observed The Times’ Quentin Letts in his sketch on the Tory Manifest launch in Telford.