Tories on Standby for Labour-Saving Policy Action

Today’s Observer editorial carries the following analysis of the “Phoney War” of policy battles between Brown and Cameron, amidst rumours of an early election:

The Conservative leader is not short of policy ideas. If anything, he has too many of them and they are not marshalled into a clear political vision. 

David Cameron is not short of policy ideas? Over on page 7, there’s a different story:

In an attempt to burnish his green credentials – weeks after being accused of lurching to the right – David Cameron will offer strong support for the report that would herald a major redesign of many of today’s electrical goods. 

Policy, policy, everywhere…

In a sign of the depth of the change of thinking at the highest levels of the Tory party, whose leaders once regarded the home as beyond the reach of the state, the report will warn that many electrical goods will have to be scrapped unless they are made more environmentally friendly. The report will single out hugely popular plasma television screens – they even adorn the walls of Downing Street – as a product that consumes too much electricity. The report will say that ‘high consumption technologies’ will be banned unless they meet new standards for lower electricity consumption. 

The issue here is that the standby modes of electrical appliances are (allegedly) the cause of 2% of the UK’s CO2 emissions. But policies about the buttons on our TVs really ought to be at the bottom of the policy ideas barrel – banning them is not going to change the planet. This policy is certainly a sign of the “depth” of “thinking” going on in Westminster, but not a change.

Cameron regards the Quality of Life report – the last of six semi-autonomous commissions to report to the Tory leadership – as a key moment in demonstrating his determination to modernise his party by adopting radical green proposals. 

Expanding the matter in the same issue of the paper, John Gummer, former Conservative Environment Minister invites us to “Turn Off the TV and Join the Tory Green Revolution”… ‘Individuals as much as governments must help in sustaining our increasingly beleaguered planet’, he says. And how are we going to save the planet? Localism…

Localism is also about local food and local provision, it’s about post offices and farm shops, it’s about food miles and local amenities. Climate change puts a new cost on carbon and therefore changes the economic balance that, for too long, has driven us away from localism towards central control. 

It’s a funny kind of “modernisation” that bans the benefits of modern society. It’s also interesting how the political equivalent of the razor wars seems intent on punishing the public for their naughty indulgences in the fruits of industrial society – big tellys, flying, driving, and labour-saving (pun intended) devices – and for wanting life to be about more than what’s happening locally (whatever that means). Not only is today’s politics about limiting the size of our television screens, it is also about lowering our horizons in the real world too. It is the political parties which are beleaguered, not the planet.

Who are these policies supposed to be speaking to – apart from other political parties, that is? It can’t be the TV watching masses. And apparently it’s not even the readership of the Observer. Of the 48 pages in the main section of one of the most green-leaning papers today, 9 contained car adverts, 3 of them full page, and 5 half pages.

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