Thursday, 15 January 2009

You can't see clean air

It's no surprise that the govenment went for a third runway. On the one hand, you've got BAA and "business" saying, "Jobs. Money. Investment. Growth." On the other, the green lobby saying, "CO2, average temperature increases over the next century, n% chance of more frequent flooding." On the third, a bunch of attention-whores chaining themselves to railings and organising tea-parties. Skipping over the ineffectual, self-aggrandising, narcissistic, ill-judged, self-satisfied "popular" protests, the green case is somewhat lacking.

I don't mean that it's wrong. Just that to politicians with necessarily short-term horizons and (particularly at the moment) a need to be seen doing something concrete, making the upper atmosphere that bit less rich in carbon-dioxide doesn't really cut it as a visible achievement. Simply saying "Don't do that" leaves you looking hollow. Environmentalists need to offer an alternative by making their own "Jobs. Money. Investment. Growth" arguments. What problem is the third runway solving? What else would solve it? The unsuccessful campaign won a few concessions - one was that the government would maybe think a bit about high-speed rail. What if that had been backed from the begining? What if the offer had been, "We'll free up runway space by cutting down domestic flights."? What if there'd been a costed proposal for high-speed rail from the start. What if it focused on job creation in marginal constituencies?

John Harris is arguing that this decision exposes a new divide in the Labour party - Old Labour vs New Enviro-Labour. I'm not sure about that. I think the divide is what it's always been - what you'd like to do and what can get away with doing.

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