Nails in Labour's coffin

Ruth Kelly has revealed another backroom farce surrounding the introduction of Home Information Pack

As the government tries again to drag us back into the bad old days of nuclear power, this isn’t the only nail in the coffin of Labour’s environmental credentials.

There have been several recently, with almost every department lining up to demonstrate its incompetence at organising and running effective green policies. The ongoing debacle of the DTI’s chronically under-funded, currently suspended, and what seems like deliberately badly planned, Low Carbon Buildings Programme (which is supposed to help householders generate their own green electricity) is now a classic example of this tendency.

On Tuesday, Communities and Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly revealed another backroom farce surrounding the introduction of Home Information Packs. These have been delayed now from June until August – and will only then apply to houses with four or more bedrooms.

The scheme has been managed in the worst way possible. Revealing the waste of a golden opportunity to create a new, skilled, green workforce, Kelly confessed that less than a quarter of the necessary inspectors had been trained to complete energy surveys for the packs. Those that have qualified were gearing up to start work in a few days time but now face unemployment until August, and even then an uncertain workload as no new timetable has been set for expanding the scope of HIPs.

There is no excuse for this kind of mismanagement. The HIP isn’t something the government thought up last year and decided to rush through. The energy component of the packs is an essential part of compliance with the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, and they have had plenty of notice of this. With no firm plans for compliance now in existence, it looks like this will be another environmental Directive to add to the list of those the UK has failed to implement properly, including those on waste and air quality, among others.

When Labour came into power ten years ago, they promised to ‘make every department a green department’. Instead we have seen green policies jettisoned, left on the shelf or just plain undermined by almost every minister who gets the chance. Part of the reason that so-called Environment Secretary David Miliband is so ineffective must be that he and his ministry have little influence on – or even knowledge of – the chaos being wreaked by other departments in areas that should be within his remit.

As we watch our carbon emissions rising every year, the DTI demolishing our hopes for a green energy future, and the CLG department ditching policies to reduce the footprint of our homes, Defra seems largely confined to funding ‘communications initiatives’ around climate change and encouraging councils to spy on our wheelie bins. I suspect that only when we get an Environment department with real teeth – or better still, real Greens in government – will we see any improvement.

Sian Berry lives in Kentish Town and was previously a principal speaker and campaigns co-ordinator for the Green Party. She was also their London mayoral candidate in 2008. She works as a writer and is a founder of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s
Getty
Show Hide image

Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496