Commons Confidential

This Morgan with Gordon.

The word in Westminster is that Sarah Brown convinced her hubby it would be a terrific idea to appear on Life Stories, Piers Stefan Pughe-Morgan's ITV choke-fest. Morgan, used to interviewing D-listers such as Jordan and Vinnie Jones, couldn't believe his luck. The Mail on Sunday, which pays Morgan handsomely as a columnist, was spun the story that the PM had wept buckets about his ten-day-old daughter's death in 2002. But No 10 insisted that, while he had welled up, no tears flowed down the prime ministerial cheeks. A strategist muttered that what's good for Morgan ain't necessarily good for Labour.

The shoe repair millionaire Edward "Timmy" Timpson is feeling down at heel. The Tory MP was overheard complaining that David Cameron has barely spoken to him since the May 2008 by-election spectacular in Crewe. Now crestfallen, Timmy knows how the Tory front bench feels.

David Miliband speaks at so many Labour events that it's whispered he'd go to the opening of a milk bottle if there were party votes in it. Newly selected would-be Labour MPs receive a note of congratulations, I hear, from Ed Balls. The determined letter writers include Keith Vaz and Denis MacShane. It may be a coincidence that if Labour loses there'll be leadership and shadow cabinet ballots. Or maybe, just maybe, there's a direct connection.

New Labour's Stalinist Tendency mock the perpetually-pleased-with-himself Tony Wright's call for elected select committee chairs. Old hands recall Wright proposing his own, erm, appointment as head of the Commons reform body.

The impending departure of Gordon Brown's little helper, Nigel Griffiths, has triggered a scramble for his office. I'm told Keir Hardie once occupied his bolt-hole near the hairdressing salon. Wee Nigel was accused of cavorting with a scantily clad brunette on the sofa. A comrade mentally measuring the curtains added that he'd ask for the upholstery to be steam-cleaned.

Lurch-like Stephen Timms says the Treasury is unable to issue a constituency guide to estates benefiting from Cameron's £1m inheritance-tax giveaway. Postcodes, said Lurch, are often omitted from wills. Do the super-rich misplace mansions?

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror.

This article appears in this week's New Statesman.

 

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Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

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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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