Alastair Campbell strikes more positive note on Ed Miliband

Independent on Sunday interviewee clarifies his position.

Following the Independent on Sunday's coverage of its interview with Alastair Campbell, which I blogged on earlier, Campbell has issued some remarks that clarify his comments and appear to show him very slightly less opposed to the prospect of an Ed Miliband leadership (Campbell backs David Miliband) than he seemed at first sight. Apologies to those readers who are sick of anything relating to Campbell on this blog, but I think the passage below is worth reading if you're interested in the contest.

First of all, thanks to the Independent on Sunday for devoting two pages to an interview pegged to the publication of Prelude to Power, which also mentions (and has pictures of the front covers of) All In The Mind and Maya, my two novels.

But . . . and I think journalists know me well enough to know there is likely to be a but after such lavish thanks . . . a modest grumble if I may about its presentation in the rest of the paper, which rather lends support to my argument about the real spin doctors being the editors, reporters and headline writers.

Here's a quote (and to be fair to interviewer John Rentoul, who had one of those old-fashioned tape recorders, I am sure all the quotes are accurate) from the section of the interview where we were talking about the four former Cabinet ministers vying to succeed GB as Labour leader, David and Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham . . .

"They have all grown. I got on very well with Ed [Balls] during the campaign. But in the end you've got to make a judgment. Of all of them, I think David [Miliband] has got the most rounded political and policy skills that you need. I'm a pragmatist about this. I think about who can take on Cameron best. They've all got strengths. I think the thing with Ed Miliband is that he's a really nice guy, but you've got to differentiate between making the party feel OK about losing and actually then making the party face up to what it needs to do to get into shape again. It's the latter that you have to look for, and I think David's got that."

And here is a Page 1 strapline . . . Alastair Campbell exclusive interview: "Ed Miliband is a nice guy but he'd only make Labour feel OK about losing."

Now, if you can bear with me, go back to the actual quote, and note the subtle but significant change secured by inserting the word "only" in the strapline. I was trying to explain why I was backing David M over the other three, without denigrating his opponents. The quote just about achieved that, I think, but the strapline moves close to denigration territory. And it is in quote marks. Therefore you would be entitled to think I said it, exactly in those terms.

Then there was a small news story on Page 2, and here the headline is even starker . . . "Campbell: Ed Miliband isn't up to leading Labour." Again, I think you would be hard-pressed to say that I actually said that. He has many strengths and there are clearly serious people in the party who think he is the man to lead Labour into the future, and I can see why. I just happen to have reached the view that his brother would be better. It does not mean that he "isn't up to leading Labour".

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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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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