CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. An assault on unions is an attack on democracy itself (Guardian)

The Conservatives' attempt to smear the trade unions is an absurd attempt to turn the current crisis of corporate legitimacy into a crisis of union legitimacy, argues Seumas Milne.

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2. Unite doesn't run Labour -- it can't even run itself (Independent)

Meanwhile, the Independent's Steve Richards says the belief that Unite has seized control of the Labour Party ignores the truth: that this is a union which rarely speaks or acts with one voice.

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3. Stand by, and watch 1992 happen all over again (Times)

Next week's Budget is as much a test for the Tories as one for the government, writes Anatole Kaletsky. If David Cameron and George Osborne misjudge their response, they could scupper their chances in the same way as Neil Kinnock and John Smith destroyed Labour's in 1992.

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4. The buccaneering spirit will prevail (Daily Telegraph)

Cameron's fighting performance this week has put Labour on the back foot again, writes Benedict Brogan. A free-flowing campaign focused on the party leaders could prove Gordon Brown's undoing.

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5. This Lib Dem myth (Guardian)

The belief that left-leaning voters will feel happier in the Liberal Democrats ignores the party's rightward shift, argues Tim Horton. Nick Clegg's tax plans would give more to the affluent middle classes than to the poorest.

6. Obama won't restrain Israel -- he can't (Independent)

Given the strength of the Israel lobby and Washington's strategic relationship with Tel Aviv, Barack Obama has no hope of preventing Binyamin Netanyahu's illegal settlement expansion, says Rupert Cornwell.

7. Poverty blights the dream of Hong Kong (Financial Times)

The territory's tradition of small government and belief in the free market has left it with the worst income inequality in Asia, writes David Pilling.

8. Why do the Tories want to be the heirs to Blair? (Daily Mail)

The Tories will not succeed by trying to ape Tony Blair, writes Stephen Glover. The public no longer shares their infatuation with the former prime minister.

9. Needed: a peaceful anti-Netanyahu uprising (Times)

Malcolm Rifkind argues that Israel needs a peaceful, democratic revolution to re-create a government with a genuine commitment to a two-state solution.

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10. A messiah can't do it. To reshape the world, the US must first reform itself (Guardian)

The biggest problem for American foreign policy is a conservative Congress, writes Timothy Garton Ash. If Obama's foreign policy is to prove effective, he must reform political finance and curb the lobbyists.

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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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