Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Stand by your man

Dinner tonight with eight or nine other MPs, including a couple of senior Ministers. The get-together had been planned a while ago, to give us a chance to catch up with each other before Conference, but of course we ended up talking about events of the past few days. Everyone 100% supportive of Gordon and between us we'd spoken to a lot of colleagues and party members who absolutely feel the same. Earlier on in the day I'd had a call from Newsnight, wanting to know whether I was going to request nomination papers; I did my usual 'no comment' on the basis that I don't co-operate with these stories, but then immediately regretted it. So to go on the record now - no, I'm not. I don't know anyone else who is. I still believe - no, I know - that Gordon is a man of immense ability and integrity, and that during these turbulent economic times we need someone of his experience at the helm. (And just as a footnote - apparently today's Cabinet meeting bore absolutely no resemblance to media reports either).


Glenn Vowles said...

Talk about 'Big Yellow Taxi' as an awful song (your view Kerry), 'Stand by your man' is much, much worse!

Gordon Brown is not so good at economics (and ecology for that matter) that he avoids contradicting himself.

During the recent rapid oil price rise he is on record as calling for increases in oil production around the globe, to put downward pressure on the price, whilst also being on record as favouring plans to lower our oil consumption (though building more roads, talking up economic globalisation, and favouring airport expansion, is hardly likey to help here is it!).

This isn't leadership as far as establishing economic stability, energy security, and tackling climate change is concerned, its confusion and mixed messages.

Kerry said...

Give me Tammy Wynette over Joni Mitchell any day!

As for mixed messages on the environment. You eat meat, don't you? You have at least one kid. And you accept that both have environmental consequences?

So you've made personal decisions in which environmental concerns aren't your number one priority... how does that differ from someone deciding they do want to use their car for certain journeys, or holiday abroad? I'm not passing judgment on those decisions - it's up to you - but I think you're as guilty of sending out mixed messages as the rest of us.

DaveA said...

I would not be so rude as to intrude on private grief. The historical similarities with the Tories in 1996 are startling, in-fighting, plummeting poll ratings, sackings and resignations. All David Cameron has to do is keep quiet and not make any slip ups.

It appears also that individual freedom will be at the top of the Tory agenda for the 2010 election. Bullying local government to be cut back, no ID cards and a review of the you know what ban. I am going to the Tory Party Conference at the end of the month where I hope the hints will become reality.

From my ear to the ground in the north and replies Freedom2Choose has had from prospective Tory candidates, all of whom are sympathetic to us, the Tories will be breaking new ground, especially in the north west.

I feel if Labour have 200 seats at the next election they would of done well.

Glenn Vowles said...

Kerry, my comment was about contradictory messages and policies and thus poor leadership from the Prime Minister of the country. It was not about his or your or my personal behaviour or decisions. I tend on the whole not to go in for this approach because for me its not the key or biggest issue. To equate mixed personal messages, insofar as they exist, with mixed messages from government is more than a bit desperate on your part.

Since when has having a child and eating meat in itself been unsustainable?? What total and unscientific rubbish your assertion is Kerry - in your view anyone who eats meat or has a child is automatically sending out mixed environmental messages!! Its laughable.

Sounds to me like a rushed, ill-considered response that's actually a bit of a rant! Its targetted in a personal direction and fails to respond in any way about the public policy on economics and leadership issues I raised - quite telling I'd say.

For the recod: On the issue of the personal decisions I make I have to say that sustainability (and thus net environmental impacts) are always central, including how many children we had and what food I eat. I've been doing a household ecological footprint measurement annually for the last nine yrs (helped by the fact that I go through the exercise yearly with my Open University students) and if you follow the link available on my blog all the main figures for our household are there in a table published online. I thought I'd publish them because every now and then someone who has little or no rational response to make in a debate resorts to attempting an attack on personal behaviour and impacts!! Below is a summary of what you can find here:

Total household ecological footprint, for three people 1.04 hectares (10,400 square metres). This is 0.35 hectares (3500 square metres) per person.

This compares to a 1999 household score of 1.47 hectares (14,700 square metres), which is 0.49 hectares (4,900 square metres) per person. The 2007 figure is 29% lower.

According to the Ecocal model software ( ) a sustainable score for a UK household is 0.4 – 0.5 hectares per person.

Unlike the results produced by the model I wouldn't say that our household is completely sustainable because of the limitations of the model. It does however indicate a very much lower than average footprint, a footprint which has gone down from a low level in 1999 to an even lower level in 2007, and of course a high ongoing green committment from me and others in the household.

In short not everything I do is green and I'm no saint. I dont go around lecturing/criticising individuals for their impacts either (I'll leave that sort of personal criticism to you Kerry). The net effect of my living is however something I want to be as consistent as I can make it with what I advocate politically, despite the ungreen world I live in and lack of help in being green one gets from government!!

Now, will you respond to the points raised about government policy by my original comment or not?!?!

Kerry said...

Looks like I've touched a nerve there Glenn!

I did reply to your point. (I've responded to you in detail on several of the issues you raise in correspondence over the past year or so, e.g. energy policy, so have no intention of reiterating all that here).

You're saying - I think - that the Government can't be genuine about meeting environmental objectives if it supports, for example, something like airport expansion or road-building which has the opposite impact. As opposed to accepting that being in Government is about balancing competing priorities, such as people's economic and social needs.

On your specific point, I don't accept that taking action to bring down fuel prices is necessarily incompatible with measures to reduce consumption, unless you assume that the only factor influencing consumption is price, which is a blunt instrument, at best. Market forces aren't everything! Do you cycle rather than drive just because of the cost? Or are there other factors? Of course there are.

As I made clear in my post, I think you're entirely free to make whatever decisions you like about how 'green' you go, but I do think there's an element of hypocrisy in your stance - on your blog there's a post called 'meat' where you say you know that giving up meat would be the right thing to do, from an environmental point of view, but you like it too much. (There's lots of supporting evidence for that view, as you well know). That is exactly the same as someone saying they know they should use public transport, but it's easier to use their car - or they know they should holiday in Wales, but they really want to go abroad for a bit of sunshine. And the reason that is of relevance is that when you're in Government, you have to take what people want into account (as opposed to just preaching from the sidelines).

The Government can either go down the path of dictating to people what choices they make - or it can accept that people aren't going to live 100% sustainable lifestyles, and that the Government therefore has to meet their needs, be that transport needs, energy needs, or economic needs. That's what we're trying to do. Just as every individual in this country has to make their choices, so do we, collectively.

Glenn Vowles said...

Kerry, you just dont get sustainability. Your earlier rant at me shows this, as do your comments about 'balancing competing priorities'.

Sustainability means reconciling the economic, social and environmental, not favouring the economic over the social and environmental as the govt has done. Its why our society is no more sustainable now than it was when your govt came to power.

You are damn right that your comments angered me because I made a point about govt policies and leadership that you chose to ignore, commenting instead on my personal behaviour and choices. Frankly what business of yours is it?

Your agenda here is obviously to take the focus away from govt policy and leadership. Its notable that the govt talks very often about what individuals can/should be doing to help fight climate change but then does very little/nothing itself or even makes the situation worse!

I note that you quickly return to personal behaviour and choices in your last comment, specifically my choices, after briefly playing down the influence of that little thing called the law of supply and demand (its only a cornerstone of economics Kerry!).

If you are going to search over my blog looking for things to criticise you could at least be accurate and logical. There's no post called 'meat' on my blog and I do not say anywhere that giving up meat would be the right thing to do. I acknowledge the strong environmental case for vegetarianism/veganism but actually have concluded that having a low meat diet is the right thing to do (otherwise I'd be a veggie!). I have teeth for biting and chewing meat and my gut length is clearly not that of a vegetarian, therefore I conclude that eating meat is the natural thing to do and consistent with sustainability provided I dont eat too much!

Your view on personal choices and sustainability is pretty simplistic too. I'm very much against dictating to people and in favour of people making any personal choices they want. In fact it appears that you Kerry feel that people would be sending out the wrong environmental message if they eat meat and have a child and its you that directs discussion back to personal choices!!

Generally its not any one particular choice that is sustainable or unsustainable, its the choices in total (though you seem to think otherwise!). The choices people make should therefore keep within a sustainable budget eg based on carbon or land footprint, insofar as govt policies allow it! Government's role is have the right and consistent policies and to do the absolute maximum it can to make individual choices consistent with staying within a sustainable budget easier, cheaper and more convenient (not something it does now!).

Its necessary to attain and then stay within a sustainable budget because otherwise our lives are going to get increasingly expensive (look at current oil and food prices), difficult (look at recent flooding problems) and/or unhealthy (look at a wide range of quality of life indicators). Under these expensive, difficult and unhealthy circumstances peoples freedom to choose would be restricted.

Kerry said...

You say your personal behaviour is no concern of anyone else's - and yet you post your household's environmental footprint online? I didn't search your blog looking for something to criticise, I just followed a link from the Blogger's site a few weeks ago and spotted it - having now double-checked, ok, it wasn't a post labelled 'meat', it was a tag. (Bit of a petty point, that!)

Here's the relevant section:

"I'm conscious that I've not posted much on the subject of diet and environmental impacts, in particular the amount and type of meat eaten, so perhaps something on this topic, reasonably well discussed on Newsnight a few days ago following comments from the head of the UN climate agency, Yvo de Boer, who is attending UN-led climate talks in Germany this week that we should all become vegetarians. After all in times of high food prices should we, at great environmental cost, be feeding grain to cows and pigs instead of people?? I really like meat but its a highly inefficient food to produce and consume and I acknowledge the very strong ethical, ecological, economic and health case for vegetarianism and veganism (I try to keep my meat consumption right down - I'm not a veggie). Interesting how intimately intertwined issues of environment, energy, economics, food, climate and personal choices/behaviour are isn't it."

So Glenn, once again, let me say - I am not passing judgment on people who eat meat or have children (although in the former case, I will continue to raise the environmental and ethical case for not doing so whenever I feel like it). The point I am making is that individuals will most likely make choices which will increase their environmental footprint, energy use, consumption of natural resources, whatever - and the Government has to respond to that. You either have to go down the path of somehow significantly reducing consumption (globally, not just domestically) or meeting the increased demand for energy and resources. If it's the former, you've got to take the public with you rather than relying solely on fiscal measures (whack up people's fuel bills, cost of motoring, etc - and you might have a short-term impact on behaviour but you'd be out of Government pretty soon afterwards). And if it's the latter, and you're saying this can be met in the near future solely by renewables (as opposed to nuclear, or a new coal power station), frankly, you're living in fantasy land. But we've had that discussion in correspondence already.

Glenn Vowles said...

What's really interesting and revealing Kerry is that you have attempted to twist things to make my personal behaviour and choices an issue when I in fact asked questions and made a statement via my MP,about public policy and leadership!! You were elected to address such issues, especially when raised by your constituents, were you not?? If there was anyone to complain to about poor service I would.

Also very interesting and revealing is that the examples of behaviour you have chosen to give are meating eating and having children, making it look distinctly like you are comparing your vegan, no-child life with my meat-eating fatherhood! Why do this? What is your agenda? Why this is at all relevant to the issue of the leadership of the country (the topic of your original post) beats me! Looks to me like you have breached the second of your blog rules since its clearly a very different topic.

The final paragraph of your last post finally addresses public policy matters. A lot of what you say there is stating the obvious. Some of what you say shows that you, like your government, are following people not leading them.

You appear to see rising footprints as an inevitability (and thus fail to understand that if this happens science says the consequences are very dire indeed). People do appreciate much of the science of sustainability, in particular on climate, but are looking to govt to direct and guide them as to what is necessary. They aren't getting this!

On energy policy you show again your focus on generating more - the number one focus of green policy is actually not renewables to generate more energy but efficiency and conservation so that we dont have to generate so much. Its the most cost-effective and prompt way of addressing fuel poverty, energy security and climate change , yet your government has seriously underinvested in it for over a decade, waiting for an economic crisis before focussing more on it!!

More coal and more nuclear, which you appear to be advocating, obviously take us further away from the sustainable society that is both necessary and desirable. There's no way, given the lack of understanding of sustainability you have demonstrated in this discussion that I'd trust your judgement on how much renewable energy the UK could generate, suffice to say that its apalling that your govt has allowed the UK to stay near the bottom of the European renewable energy league table along with along with Malta!

My blog itself explains why my footprint details are made available. The relevant post says:
'Why post details of my household/individual ecological footprint? Well: 1. I have the information and have been calculating it in reasonable detail and with fair accuracy by the same method for yrs now, for both work and personal purposes; 2. People are increasingly interested in their footprint and growing numbers do a calculation eg via a website; 3. I've said previously I would publish a more detailed footprint document, having done some estimates using websites (see Sept 9 '07 posting); 4. As someone who has for yrs been campaigning to get greener society with much lower footprints and environmental impacts, people may be interested to see if I try to practice what I preach; 5. The information is quite interesting; 6. The figures show that you can lead a pretty normal life and have a low footprint - I have a car, I eat meat, I have holidayed I dont live in a teepee eating only leaves or in the latest high-tech, ultra-expensive green get a low footprint, though I do aim to be very efficient and to prioritise.'

Glenn Vowles said...

'You say your personal behaviour is no concern of anyone else's - and yet you post your household's environmental footprint online?'

No I did not say this Kerry. Actually I said 'Frankly what business is it of yours?' by which I meant why would you as my MP focus in so much on it.

The Bristol Blogger said...

I'm all for local politicians having bitchy, personal arguments on the internet but, in the name of entertainment, is there any chance you could make your posts a little shorter and more succinct?

Glenn Vowles said...

Take your point of course Blogger.
My summary is, MP: wants to divert attention away from genuine issues of leadership and public policy; is really irritated by this persistent bloke who keeps pointing out incoherent govt policy and sloppy MP statements, because its very hard to defend them; wants to somehow make a telling point or two and doesn't mind getting personal!

Kerry said...

And my point was that being in Government means balancing competing - and sometimes conflicting - priorities. As people do in the personal choices they make too. That was all!

As for Glenn's complaint re alleged 'poor service' from me in responding to his Qs. This blog is not part of the 'service' of a constituency MP. It's a voluntary endeavour on my part and entirely up to me what I put on here and whether I choose to respond to comments. People can judge me if they want by my lack of response, or by my choice of subjects, that's fine. If someone wants to engage with me as a constituent, they are very welcome to write to me.

Glenn, the reason I mentioned meat-eating and having kids wasn't to draw the comparison with me - it's just they're the only two things I know about you that exemplify the point I was making. That we all make choices. And you're the one who shifted the conversation onto green issues!

Interesting chat with the head of the Soil Association today about sustainability actually. (And he seemed to think I knew what I was talking about). There's an article going in next month's Ecologist arguing that red meat is far more sustainable than white meat, because cows and sheep graze on grass rather than consuming vast quantities of grain/ soya like chickens and pigs.

Sorry, this is going on a bit... if it's all too much for you Blogger, I suggest you come back on Stevie Wonder and Sam Cooke instead.

Kerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glenn Vowles said...

For how long can we go on 'balancing priorities' if we all go on consuming at an average of 2.5 planets per UK person??

Kerry said...

2.5 planets per UK person? That's an awful lot of planets.

I hesitate to contradict someone who lectures on this for a living. but I think you mean that if everyone in the world had the same levels of consumption as the average UK person, it would take the resources of 2.5 planets to sustain that level of consumption. Is that right?

Paul said...

as an astrophysicist (along with Charlie Bolton) perhaps we could get some rockets to take to Mars and Venus, I have started drawing up my venus list already - runaway greenhouse effect, sulphuric acid rain....

Glenn Vowles said...

Might have been better not to get me on this topic Kerry, after the earlier lengthy exchanges!! You should not be surprised at the figure I gave, which is actually a very conservative one.

One of the reasons I blog about footprinting, including putting my own footprint 'out there' is to contribute to informing people about this crucially important indicator. Earth went into 'ecological debt' in the 1980's and gets deeper into debt each year. If you knew more about it I'm sure you would not have attempted some of your earlier criticisms and might appreciate more the method I have adopted to 'balance personal priorities'.

I'll try to brief and not rant on too much more about how all MPs should be more aware of all this stuff if they are to debate sustainability in an informed way...(click the label ecological footprint on my blog and pick out the posts with the more informative links eg
to find out more).

The '2.5 planets' is a low-end (!) estimate of the rate of consumption of a UK citizen ie compared to what is sustainable, according to ecological footprinting. The unit 'planets' (not one I like much) is one WWF use on their website - they say its about 'consuming as if we had' x planets...

The 2.5 figure is a result many UK people get even if they live what they think of as pretty green lives. See here for instance (as you'd expect of a Green Charlie scores much better than 2.5 but still a long way from a sustainable 1 planet!):

Most people in the UK will score much higher than 2.5 planets, some will even go into double figures.

Anyone can go to the site and get an estimate just by completing their online questionaire

Hope I've not gone on for too long - the Bristol Blogger not be happy!!