David Davis: right on torture, wrong on climate change

Have you read his denialist nonsense in the Independent?

I'm a big fan of David Davis on civil liberties and human rights issues, especially his bold stance in opposition to torture and our alleged complicity in barbaric practices.

But on climate change, he is hopelessly wrong. His cornucopia of distortions, exaggerations, smears and half-truths in the Independent today makes for a depressing read.

I don't have time to fisk every line -- and, believe me, every line is worth fisking! -- but I will take issue with two of his points:

1)

The row about whether global warming exists gets even more virulent. The case is not helped by the fact that the planet appears to have been cooling, not warming, in the last decade.

Really? Who to believe? Davis, with his "BSc Joint Hons molecular science/computer science" degree, or the globally renowned, peer-reviewed climate scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre? From a press release in December 2008:

The ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1997. Global temperatures for 2000-2008 now stand almost 0.2°C warmer than the average for the decade 1990-1999.

Dr Peter Stott of the Met Office says our actions are making the difference: "Human influence, particularly emission of greenhouse gases, has greatly increased the chance of having such warm years. Comparing observations with the expected response to man-made and natural drivers of climate change it is shown that global temperature is now over 0.7°C warmer than if humans were not altering the climate."

2)

Last week, the row was fuelled after a hacker revealed emails between the world's leading climate scientists that seemed to show them conspiring to rig the figures to support their theories. So it is unsurprising that more than half the public no longer believe in global warming.

Davis gets his timeline wrong. Polls showing public scepticism on the climate change issue preceded and predated the so-called Climategate row and the release of the University of East Anglia emails. The reason "more than half the public" no longer believe in global warming is because right-wing free marketeers like Davis, lacking in scientific credentials, have distorted the arguments and undermined the evidence.

The really scary point is this: had David Davis beaten David Cameron in 2005 and become Tory leader, Britain would now be on the verge of electing the only climate-change-denying leader in the G7. One for Dominic Sandbrook's What If . . . columns, eh?

By the way, before all the deniers and "sceptics" crawl out from under their cold, non-warming rocks to object to the evidence cited in this post and scream "cover-up", let me point you in the direction of a story in the Telegraph showing how climate-change sceptics get things wrong, too.

 

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Junior doctors’ strikes: the greatest union failure in a generation

The first wave of junior doctor contract impositions began this week. Here’s how the BMA union failed junior doctors.

In Robert Tressell’s novel, The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, the author ridicules the notion of work as a virtuous end per se:

“And when you are all dragging out a miserable existence, gasping for breath or dying for want of air, if one of your number suggests smashing a hole in the side of one of the gasometers, you will all fall upon him in the name of law and order.”

Tressell’s characters are subdued and eroded by the daily disgraces of working life; casualised labour, poor working conditions, debt and poverty.

Although the Junior Doctors’ dispute is a far cry from the Edwardian working-poor, the eruption of fervour from Junior Doctors during the dispute channelled similar overtones of dire working standards, systemic abuse, and a spiralling accrual of discontent at the notion of “noble” work as a reward in itself. 

While the days of union activity precipitating governmental collapse are long over, the BMA (British Medical Association) mandate for industrial action occurred in a favourable context that the trade union movement has not witnessed in decades. 

Not only did members vote overwhelmingly for industrial action with the confidence of a wider public, but as a representative of an ostensibly middle-class profession with an irreplaceable skillset, the BMA had the necessary cultural capital to make its case regularly in media print and TV – a privilege routinely denied to almost all other striking workers.

Even the Labour party, which displays parliamentary reluctance in supporting outright strike action, had key members of the leadership join protests in a spectacle inconceivable just a few years earlier under the leadership of “Red Ed”.

Despite these advantageous circumstances, the first wave of contract impositions began this week. The great failures of the BMA are entirely self-inflicted: its deference to conservative narratives, an overestimation of its own method, and woeful ignorance of the difference between a trade dispute and moralising conundrums.

These right-wing discourses have assumed various metamorphoses, but at their core rest charges of immorality and betrayal – to themselves, to the profession, and ultimately to the country. These narratives have been successfully deployed since as far back as the First World War to delegitimise strikes as immoral and “un-British” – something that has remarkably haunted mainstream left-wing and union politics for over 100 years.

Unfortunately, the BMA has inherited this doubt and suspicion. Tellingly, a direct missive from the state machinery that the BMA was “trying to topple the government” helped reinforce the same historic fears of betrayal and unpatriotic behaviour that somehow crossed a sentient threshold.

Often this led to abstract and cynical theorising such as whether doctors would return to work in the face of fantastical terrorist attacks, distracting the BMA from the trade dispute at hand.

In time, with much complicity from the BMA, direct action is slowly substituted for direct inaction with no real purpose and focus ever-shifting from the contract. The health service is superficially lamented as under-resourced and underfunded, yes, but certainly no serious plan or comment on how political factors and ideologies have contributed to its present condition.

There is little to be said by the BMA for how responsibility for welfare provision lay with government rather than individual doctors; virtually nothing on the role of austerity policies; and total silence on how neoliberal policies act as a system of corporate welfare, eliciting government action when in the direct interests of corporatism.

In place of safeguards demanded by the grassroots, there are instead vague quick-fixes. Indeed, there can be no protections for whistleblowers without recourse to definable and tested legal safeguards. There are limited incentives for compliance by employers because of atomised union representation and there can be no exposure of a failing system when workers are treated as passive objects requiring ever-greater regulation.

In many ways, the BMA exists as the archetypal “union for a union’s sake”, whose material and functional interest is largely self-intuitive. The preservation of the union as an entity is an end in itself.

Addressing conflict in a manner consistent with corporate and business frameworks, there remains at all times overarching emphasis on stability (“the BMA is the only union for doctors”), controlled compromise (“this is the best deal we can get”) and appeasement to “greater” interests (“think of the patients”). These are reiterated even when diametrically opposed to its own members or irrelevant to the trade dispute.

With great chutzpah, the BMA often moves from one impasse to the next, framing defeats as somehow in the interests of the membership. Channels of communication between hierarchy and members remain opaque, allowing decisions such as revocation of the democratic mandate for industrial action to be made with frightening informality.

Pointedly, although the BMA often appears to be doing nothing, the hierarchy is in fact continually defining the scope of choice available to members – silence equals facilitation and de facto acceptance of imposition. You don’t get a sense of cumulative unionism ready to inspire its members towards a swift and decisive victory.

The BMA has woefully wasted the potential for direct action. It has encouraged a passive and pessimistic malaise among its remaining membership and presided over the most spectacular failure of union representation in a generation.

Ahmed Wakas Khan is a junior doctor, freelance journalist and editorials lead at The Platform. He tweets @SireAhmed.