Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Dictatorship seems a more pressing danger than global warming

This column has never made any claim to omniscience. How could it? I am a half-employed PR man, for heaven’s sake. Though at least this makes me less of a threat to the nation than the former PR man currently resident in 10 Downing Street.

The sharpest knife in the box. Apparently.

But I did work in the City of London for almost 30 years after somehow picking up a first class honours degree in history. So I do know a tiny bit about both the world of high finance and the lessons of the past.

In “Views of the North” last week, Mr Derek Robertson of Gateshead took me to task for claiming in my last column that “our current financial woes are basically down to the EU and the euro”. I did no such thing. I merely pointed out that the creation of the euro had, quite unnecessarily, made an already extremely bad situation potentially catastrophic for democracy and peace.

At the risk of repeating myself, the euro was and is an economically illiterate construction, designed to drive the political union of Europe so that a tiny elite could strut the world stage as representatives of a superpower, claiming parity with the US or China.

Our beloved President van Rompuy

The fact that its creation was dressed up in the language of peace and prosperity made it all the more annoying. That is why I drew a parallel with wind power, which is a classic moneymaking scam designed to benefit a relatively small number of developers and landowners at the expense of the rest of us. Yet it similarly comes infuriatingly wrapped in self-righteous claims that it is all about “saving the planet”.

Let us accept, for the sake of argument, that the Earth is getting warmer. Let us further concede that this may be driven by population growth and industrialisation. I have no difficulty in believing that, while the world may be able to support more than seven billion human beings, it is going to be placed under some strain if they all aspire to the lifestyle of rich Americans.

But bearing in mind the UK’s tiny share of world industrial output, consigning 515 people around Lynemouth to the dole queue by raising taxes to cut carbon emissions seems to me a disproportionately high price to pay for Chris Huhne’s occupation of the international moral high ground.

So, farewell then: Alcan Lynemouth

Meanwhile the Government’s own chief scientific adviser on energy pointed out at the weekend that we will need to cover vast swathes of the country in wind turbines, solar panels and biofuel crops to “go green” and will still only be able to generate a relatively small fraction of our energy needs from renewable resources. Of which wind is much the least satisfactory because of its intermittent nature.

As for allegedly failing to name and shame those guilty for our current economic predicament, even I grew bored with writing week after week that the claim to have “abolished boom and bust” defied all the evidence of history.

The ultimate responsibility of bankers, and those who failed to regulate them, is beyond dispute. It is indeed maddening that they have gone unpunished, their unjustified bonuses neatly laundered into agreeable town houses in Chelsea and country estates in the Cotswolds. I have pointed out in the past that, if it happened in China, at least a representative sample of them would have been shot.

Bankers: the way forward?

But this isn’t China, and I hope it never will be, however much the Chinese economy may prosper. Because the bottom line is that I would like my sons to grow up in a free country where they have a chance to sack the government every five years, rather than being ruled by “technocrats” or commissars who can only be deposed by taking to the streets and facing down people armed with batons, rifles or tanks.

Call me dumb if you wish, but right now that seems a much greater threat to their future than rising sea levels, and is also something that we might be able to take some meaningful action to prevent.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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