The Invictus Games would not have happened without Prince Harry. Photo: Getty
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Prince Harry speaks human, the Newsnight conundrum and the lessons of London 2012

Roger Mosey’s Diary.

An unglamorous meeting room in Victoria with a view of a construction site was the venue for the final meeting of the Invictus Games board before the event begins less than three weeks from now. I signed up for the project at the end of last year because it was a chance to work again with some of the people who delivered London 2012 – with a good cause attached. But in the months since then the mission of supporting our wounded, injured and sick service personnel through the power of sport has become a genuinely stirring one.

Whatever you think about the wars of the 21st century, these are men and women whose lives have been changed for ever; and we saw in the Paralympics how sport can transcend disability. Some of the performances next month in the Olympic Park will be slower and less expert, but I’ll be astonished if spectators and TV viewers aren’t enthralled and uplifted by what they see.

 

Harry talks human

The Games wouldn’t have happened without Prince Harry. I sense the NS isn’t the most natural place to praise princes, but it was Harry’s experience at the Warrior Games in the US that drove him to create Invictus here. He turns up at every meeting and is a royal mile away from his tabloid image, turning out to be smart, politically astute and good at “doing human”. If you define a successful politician as someone most voters would like to go for a beer with, Harry, in another life, would be in electoral landslide territory.

 

Keep the flame alight

A trip to Japan this summer was a cheering reminder of what hosting major sport events can achieve. I was working with the Japanese broadcaster NHK, which will be covering the Tokyo 2020 Olympics; and it was initially disconcerting to find that my hosts had collated all the comments I’d made as a BBC executive about London 2012 from 2005 onwards. There were one or two “Lord knows why I said that” moments, but it also showed how events that bring the nation together are at the heart of what public service broadcasting is about. Sport is uniquely good at that, but the trick Britain pulled off in the summer of 2012 was to have all its national institutions working together to create and capture the spirit of a new kind of country. Glasgow 2014 did the same for Scotland within the Commonwealth.

That’s why I envy the Japanese having their chance to redefine their country to themselves and to the world in six years’ time; and in this August of unremittingly awful news it would be good for us to remind ourselves about what the UK got right in 2012 and how we might keep that spirit alive.

 

Gee up, Newsnight

It’s possibly because of the grimness of the news agenda that I find myself ending the day with BBC2’s Newsnight less often than I used to. I admire the energy that Ian Katz has brought to the role of editor, but there’s a sense he could be flogging a dying horse.

Twenty-four-hour news channels and all the commentary online make it ever harder to offer a definitive take on the day, and over on Radio 4 the Today programme mops up the key interviews. The senior corres­pondents’ pieces for the adjacent BBC and ITV ten o’clock bulletins cut away yet more of Newsnight’s territory. Jeremy Paxman’s ability to create a sense of theatre even on a dull night is missed.

I would move the programme to a new slot: start it at 11pm and give it up to an hour, with a brief to be more discursive. It should improve its coverage of science and culture. It could incorporate analysis of the newspaper first editions in the way that works well on Sky and the BBC News channel, and focus on intelligent viewers and alternative voices. It should disregard the ratings. One reason this may never happen is that there’d be one of those spurious media fusses about losing the 10.30 slot; but unless the programme is reimagined, and radically, it will merely lurk as the ghost of glories past.

 

Footie drama in sharp acoustics

Match of the Day celebrated its 50th anniversary as an altogether sprightlier thoroughbred. It is something of a miracle that such a great footballer as Gary Lineker is a wonderful presenter too, because there isn’t a long list of former England players who could be decent pundits, let alone steer the whole show.

A curiosity to some people is that one of the best commentators in the business, John Murray, still occupies himself mainly with radio and hasn’t moved across to television. But why should he? If the pictures in a drama are better on the radio, so football in sound-only offers a platform for a commentator in which he alone captures the game for listeners; and that’s more exciting than telling people what they can already see on a 40-inch HD screen.

 

Nothing like a long-eared cat

An addition to my life in Cambridge in the past few months has been a basset hound called YoYo. She has proven how good an ice-breaker dogs can be: she was an instant hit with most of the students, and has the placid temperament and soulful eyes that win affection. I say “dog” but that’s not how she’s officially categorised, because college rules allow no animals save for the Master being allowed to keep a cat. I therefore received permission from the Selwyn College Council to acquire “a very large cat”.

A visiting conference of American judges thought this was a glorious manifestation of Cambridge traditions, and for a while every time I left the house with the dog in tow I was greeted by a shout of, “Hey, I love your cat!” Happily, YoYo is not alone as a college dog; I believe there are two more in residence in Master’s Lodges elsewhere, with at least one more expected this October.

Cats should look out: dogs are on the march in academia, even if they have to gain entry under false pretences. l

Roger Mosey was the BBC’s director for the London 2012 Olympic Games and is Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge

Roger Mosey is the Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge. He was formerly editorial director and the director of London 2012 at the BBC.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The new caliphate

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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