For the past three weeks I've been linked in with the annual conferences of the three major political parties in the UK. It's nice to be back to normality!! There's much that could be written, commented on, condemned even, but this is not the location to pursue such tasks, with the exception of one and that is
" What appears to be the current stance of each Party on environmental and wildlife matters"
Well, you'd have to look pretty hard in those " policy store cupboards" to find much that would appease the concerns of the sort of people who I guess read this Blog. Indeed, you'd have to work hard and listen very carefully to pick up any statements even relating to such matters. That our countryside is increasingly seen as a commodity towards which no real commitment or empathy is extended is a worry. All parties seem hitched to the energy rail at present with references to "alternatives" being the order of the day and much pledging and in-fighting being apparent as to the most suitable way forward. I always worry when "environment" subsumes absolutely everything , including our natural heritage and its needs, as it always seems that such "surroundings" are taken for granted, are presumed to be somehow self-regulating whatever abuse we impose on them and that, preferably, all will be achieved without one iota of expenditure. The forthcoming consultation on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP ) changes in England, the allocation of subsidies and the effect these will have on our countryside for decades to come are something to follow closely!!
Setting aside the energy debates and references to climate change and fracking we were told by Nick Clegg ( LibDem leader ) that Natural England had been "saved" by David Heath (LibDem), but without any context surrounding the statement or explanation of what NE even does. Sadly I suspect most of the overall electorate wouldn't have a clue what the organization attempts to achieve or the strictures it operates under even when in existence. Ed Miliband ( Labour leader ) had nothing really to say on the environment ( other than linked to energy ! ) nor did any other Shadow Minister unless I missed something. A major worry here is the mention, as a part solution to the current housing crisis, the possibility of NEW TOWNS being created. Where, what size, and with what accompanying disruption one might ask?
And then we have the Tories. Well, I have to say that, in part, and on this occasion only, I was pleasantly surprised. Last Monday morning the Rt.Hon. Owen Paterson ( Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ) made a presentation in which there was more than a sprinkling of words like "wildlife", "biodiversity", "habitats" and the like. Whether or not, in the absence of anything similar previously, this was an attempt to show that the Tory Party had an environmental heart and was staving off criticisms levelled before in this respect, is hard to judge. I'm not a fan of said Minister, he's far too glib and overconfident for my liking and I'm never really convinced by his announcements. But on this occasion at least there had been an attempt to address issues about which many people have concerns. The downside is that he is firmly of the view that the environment and economic development are not mutually exclusive and that the solution to all ills in this scenario rests on the question of our adopting the practice of biodiversity offsetting. I can do no better than refer you to the excellent piece ( Giving nature a helping hand ) that Martin Harper ( Director of Conservation, RSPB ) put out on this subject on the 12th September on the RSPB's Community site, links to which appear not to be working at present. So, are we finally seeing some recognition of the needs of our natural heritage ( he pledged firmly to protect same ! ) or is it all window dressing? Time will tell, but I hope not, and have to say that said Minister's involvement at an RSPB Fringe Meeting was noteworthy. Whilst his convictions don't necessarily persuade me away from my current views, such have to be respected and continuing attempts made to achieve or ensure efforts to provide for our natural heritage are up to the mark. Suffice to say that, on this occasion, at least the subject had received a fair hearing.
Whilst I wouldn't normally stray into the following sort of territory, on this occasion I feel compelled to draw attention to a recent book that is controversial to say the least. Given it was raining for most of the day yesterday I spent my time ( and half of the night ! ) reading it.
Look at the reviews and , if you feel it's for you, then ensure you read it. Having read Alistair Campbell's diaries this, by contrast, has a more refreshing style and is an easier read. You may not enjoy the revelations, indeed you may begin to question the very system that allows approaches such as those described to flourish. Whilst a lot of the " Westminster family" work very, very hard for most of the time, it does leave you with a feeling that there's no wonder our natural heritage is not seen as a vote catcher. Power, exposure, profile, self achievement, all bubble to the surface alongside the very genuine efforts to make our world a better place to live in. But, is this the way to try and achieve it? Damian McBride will long be branded as an outsider and an exception to the rule. Really!! I think he's done a first class job of revealing how the system can operate and doubtless does operate more regularly than we suspect. Enjoy!