3 PUMPING HEAT
Apart from providing huge expenses claims for the world leaders and their lackeys the Cop 26 Conference has four formal objectives. The intention is to ‘secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach’, ‘adapt to protect communities and natural habitat’, ‘mobilise finance’ and ‘work together to deliver’. I am as fond of elliptical prose as the next person but those objectives are distinguished by imprecise wording that misses more than it identifies. A few more references to carbon, waste and temperatures would have helped. None of it feels likely to keep an apocalypse at bay. In times like this one is obliged to remember at least some of the words of The Waste Land by T S Eliot. As the famous and perhaps notorious Jeremiah once said in an equally troubling decade, ‘What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this stony rubbish?’
Not a lot when the conference is chaired by Pfeffel. In the past this man has had much fun making cheap jokes about environmental corruption. He has enjoyed belittling the earnest concern of everyone from just about everywhere. If that sentence sounds vague, just wait until later. Pfeffel once proclaimed that fulfilment is best achieved through owning new BMWs and having blonde wives with big knockers. We should be wary of attributing higher motives to Putin and Xi Jinping but if they are going to fail to turn up to an environmental world conference then this one, with our Pfeffel in charge, has to be the favourite. The norm before these get-togethers is that the host in advance of the meeting puts in some hard miles travelling the globe and cajoling the other heads of state into making commitments prior to the conferences. The approach of Pfeffel has been different. He has been on holiday. No wonder the advisors of Putin and Xi Jinping have advised their bosses to put their feet up and take it easy this year. No point in risking catching Covid to listen to the thoughts of not always truthful Pfeffel.
World capitalism, the economic system that is now $1.2 trillion in debt and that needs continuous and accelerated growth to service that debt, is supposedly going to deliver global net zero by 2050. There is a joke in there somewhere but time might be spent better looking for the wind farms and new heating systems that will be needed. But at least some people have been working hard. Just in time for COP 26 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has produced a ten point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. We know that this is a really important document because it has two forwards and an introduction. Pfeffel is the skilled scribe responsible for the opening paragraphs and, no surprise, he has been thumping his bosums again. Little old Britain will be the number one centre for green technology and finance. Most of us would settle for just keeping pace, something equivalent to a football team in the Premiership qualifying for a European competition. Pfeffel, though, is different. So he should be. Prep and public schools maketh this man. Pfeffel had his proud heart first swelled in Ashdown House Preparatory School. Ex-Tory Minister David Mitchell was also a pupil and he remembers the headmaster one day caning every boy in the school. What it did for hearts is not known but the headmaster boasted that it helped his golf swing. Britain will be number one at something or the suffering of well bred buttocks will have been for nothing. Pfeffel has previously promised that Britain would benefit from a world beating response to Covid. One day last week a fifth of all the Covid deaths in the world occurred in Britain, and yesterday alone 50,000 people tested positive for the Covid virus. Bulgaria is anything but a world beating number one but that country has had no more than 55,000 Covid cases since all this began. Six million people are on NHS waiting lists.
No need, though,to remain trapped in the gloomy present. Pfeffel, always looking to a horizon filled with sunshine, has goodies in his green recovery plan. The government will invest $12bn in green technology and ‘mobilise potentially three times as much investment from the private sector’. Even the innocent will be suspicious of the word potentially in that promise, especially as Pfeffel is referring to a British private sector collection of casino capitalists that is infamous for its woeful record on investment in industry. Hate to be one more Jeremiah but it is a struggle to forget what these people did to the railways and utilities. Pfeffel is excited about replacing gas radiators with heat pumps which work fine unless the temperature drops to 5℃ and below.
The less innocent, the types that look at spreadsheets and numbers, are even dubious about the very specific £12bn promised by Pfeffel. Shadow business secretary Ed Milliband has an alternative green recovery plan, and it quotes the need for £30bn to be spent in the next 18 months. Boris forgets to mention the timescale for investment in his forward to the Green Recovery Plan. More than that, and this is where Putin and Xi Jinping are permitted a throaty chuckle, Milliband and his people have discovered that not all of the £12bn is new money. The actual investment is no more than £4bn. Ah well, the hope was nice while it lasted.
There is some good news in the Green Recovery Plan. Funds may be tight but the Government has made a pledge to plant 30,000 hectares of trees and, wait for it, 30,000 football pitches. Odd how Pfeffel manages to quote the number 30,000 twice in a handful of paragraphs. And why football pitches in a plan that is supposed to be taking seriously the task of avoiding the long predicted apocalypse? Were they that short of sound ideas? Well, serious these people are not. If Nadine Dorries Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of the world beating United Kingdom remembered to mention the football pitches and earned a gold star, there will be no prizes this time round for rival Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of we all know where. This not too bright economic libertarian has just signed a trade deal with Australia. To secure agreement between the countries key pledges on climate action were deleted.
Pfeffel is at his best when he promises in his forward to the Green Recovery Plan that there will be grid system installers ‘everywhere’. Hate to be pedantic but everywhere is not just a big place but it is also all inclusive. Will each of the 30,000 hectares of trees and football pitches each have their own grid system installer? The use of precise terminology and understanding of detail is, of course, not how Pfeffel will be remembered. The chap will have to get off his once bruised buttocks, though. Thinking vague nonsense and then pretending he has a plan could mean that he might not be remembered at all. Apocalypses are notorious for not being forgiving.
There has been some relief from the urgent bluster that defines the present government. The interruption was the consequence of a murderous and alarming attack on a member of parliament. Sir David Amess was the popular and respected MP for Southend West. His attacker appears to have been an aspirational terrorist. The grief over the death of the Tory MP has been significant and so it should be. This is a tragedy for the victim and his family. So far MPs have been attacked three times by men with murderous intent. All three attacks have resulted in deaths. Joe Cox and Sir David Amess are the two MPs that have died. Andrew Pennington died trying to protect MP Nigel Jones. Something has to be done. Entry into Parliament means negotiating your way through a security barrier that requires the presence of both security guards and policemen. The obvious comparison is with the absence of protection that exists for MPs in their constituencies. If we can be that casual about security for MPs once they leave Parliament, what is the in-depth security system in Westminster designed to achieve? Is it protecting people, the building or nothing more than the reputation of the establishment?
In response to the death of Sir David Amess much has been said about a toxic political culture that encourages hate. The comment from MPs and the media has now drifted towards hypocrisy. There should be no dispute over MPs having a right to protection and to them being treated with civility. But the same arguments also apply to the British people. Recent reports have claimed that the economic policies of always too self-satisfied George Osborne not only diverted funds from ordinary people to the already rich but created 130,000 unnecessary deaths. Neither did the terrible Grenfell tragedy give the prolonged pause for thought that it would have done in a compassionate society. And the response of Pfeffel and his gang to the Covid epidemic has been not only slapdash but at times appeared conscience free. Lives have been needlessly lost. Churlish folk, of which there are more than a few in the UK, have looked critically at the grief and alarm generated by the death of one Tory MP. That grief, though, should not be begrudged. The problem in Britain is not that there is too much grieving. In the political battleground that defines modern times there is not enough grief. Not just those in power but the people of Britain have given inadequate attention to the victims of the last forty years, those that have suffered because of the implementation of an economic doctrine that was disgraced a century earlier. Some MPs think the death of Sir David Amess justifies them now being entitled to keep private their excessive six figure expenses claims. Extra security for MPs and awarding city status to Southend-on Sea in memory of Sir David Amiss are not begrudged. But to those MPs that want to keep their greed away from prying eyes we have to say that civilisation begins at home. If these careerist and often heartless utilitarians had been made of sterner stuff, they would have stood against newspaper proprietors that created the toxicity within political life in Britain. Cordial civilisation might now consist of something more than what we remember.
Howard Jackson has had eleven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories, travel books and collections of film criticism. His latest book Offended Shadows is now available here.