Climate politics: the many versus the few. Photo: Getty
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The Tories stand up for the privileged few on climate change

The Tory lurch to the right has shattered the cross-party consensus on climate change policy

This week has seen a major shift in the politics of climate change. Where there was once consensus there is now a struggle between the many who want climate action and the privileged few who want to preserve the status quo.

David Cameron’s former environment secretary Owen Paterson wants to rip up the Climate Change Act 2008. Since his speech on Wednesday not a single Conservative minister has come out to say that they disagree. The lack of protest suggests that repealing the act would be policy under a Conservative majority in 2015.

No one should be in any doubt that Owen Paterson speaks for the majority view in the Conservative party. Three quarters of Conservative party MPs don’t agree with the scientific consensus on climate change. David Cameron is the Prime Minister who went from leading the "greenest Government ever" to ditching the "green crap".

The Committee on Climate Change – the government’s own independent advisers have warned that the UK under David Cameron are likely to miss the carbon targets the last Labour government committed us to meeting. The Tory-led government failed to set a 2030 decarbonisation target. They’ve held back green growth and jobs by refusing to give the Green Investment Bank any borrowing powers. They even removed flood protection from the priorities of the environment department when Owen Paterson was in charge.

The loss of the all-party consensus achieved to legislate for emission reductions caused by the Tory lurch to the right is bad news for those who wish to tackle climate change. It must make Labour even more determined to be resolute in reducing emissions.

Our food, our water, the air we breathe – the future of our planet as climate change threatens – nothing could be more important than these things for our generation – and for our children and their children too. These are the people that the Labour party stands up for. They are the many who Ed Miliband stood up for when he brought the Climate Change Act into legislation and it’s why he’s put climate change at the heart of his vision for the new economy.

The Conservative party only stand up for the privileged few who deny that climate change is even happening. The vested interests who want to preserve the old economy that can’t work for ordinary people or the planet. It was against these interests that hundreds of thousands of people marched on the streets of the world’s capital cities last month in support of climate action.

That’s why the next election will be the most important for a generation. We need a government that will take climate change and the environment seriously. That can only be a Labour government led by Ed Miliband that champions the green agenda to build a cleaner, greener economy for the many not the few.

Maria Eagle MP is Labour MP for Garston and Halewood and shadow environment secretary

Maria Eagle is the shadow secretary of state for defence and Labour MP for Garston and Halewood

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What is the New Hampshire primary, and why does it matter?

Although the contest has proved less influential in recent years, the New Hampshire primary is still a crucial event.

While the Iowa caucuses are the first electoral event in the US’s presidential process, the New Hampshire primary is the candidates' most important early test before the action explodes across the rest of the country.

The stakes are high. If the nominations aren’t decided soon, the campaigns will be damned to a marathon of costly state primaries and caucuses; New Hampshire is their first best chance to avoid that fate. But it didn’t always work this way.

Primaries only became the key element of the nomination process relatively recently. Until the postwar era, presidential candidates were chosen at the national conventions in the summer: in the run-up to the 1960 election, future president John F Kennedy famously entered only one primary (West Virginia’s) to prove that a Roman Catholic could win a Protestant state.

It was only after the turmoil of the 1968 nomination, widely perceived as an establishment fix, that the McGovern-Fraser Commission changed the Democratic party’s rules to end the power of the “smoke-filled room” over the nominating process, prompting many states to adopt meaningful primaries for both parties' nominations.

First in the nation

Unlike caucuses, which generally are used in smaller states that would rather not pay for full-scale ballots, primaries are secret-ballot elections that allow voters to choose who will be their preferred nominee. But not all primaries are the same.

The parties sometimes hold their votes on the same day, as they do in New Hampshire, or on different ones. A primary may be open (allowing any voter to register a preference) or closed (allowing only pre-registered party supporters to vote). New Hampshire has a mixed system which allows voters to register in a primary on the day before voting without declaring a party affiliation.

That means that while all voters registered with a party must vote in that party’s ballot, the New Hampshire result often hinges on these unaffiliated voters. Because they can vote in whichever ballot they like and can register so close to primary day, the state is notoriously difficult to poll.

New Hampshire has cemented its first-in-the-nation status by passing a law that requires its lawmakers to move the state’s primary to pre-empt any other state’s, no matter how early. That means it’s traditionally been not just an important indicator of how candidates are faring, but a way of winnowing the field and generating or killing funding. Candidates who perform poorly generally find their access to money suddenly dries up.

The arguments against New Hampshire’s outsize role are many. Like Iowa, it’s hardly representative of the US as a whole, being a small state with an overwhelmingly white population. And while (unlike Iowa) it has no powerful evangelical Christian element, it retains a very distinctive tradition of small-town New England politics that demand a particular kind of face-to-face, low-to-the-ground campaigning.

But this time around, other factors have cut into New Hampshire’s significance.

On the Republican side, the primary’s winnowing role was in large part pre-empted when the TV networks holding debates allowed only the higher-polling candidates on stage, effectively creating a two-tier system that tarred lower-polling candidates as also-rans long before voting began. Meanwhile, the financial calculations have been transformed by campaign finance reforms that allow for almost unlimited outside fundraising – allowing candidates to build up the reserves they need to withstand a humiliating defeat.

Nonetheless, a truly surprising New Hampshire result could still change everything.

Shuffling the deck

New Hampshire hasn’t always chosen the winner in either the nomination contests or the general election. But it has provided more than its share of political upsets and key turning points, from persuading Lyndon Johnson not to stand again in 1968 to resurrecting the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and John McCain in 2008.

The incremental campaigns for the nominations are all about the perception of momentum, and a notional front-runner can be dislodged or destabilised by a poor performance early on. That’s especially true in this year’s cycle, in which both major parties are grappling with huge surges of support for outsider, anti-establishment candidates.

Mainstream Republicans have spent months trying to end Donald Trump’s noisy domination of their crowded field. Trump was indeed defeated in Iowa, but not by a moderating force: instead, it was radical conservative Ted Cruz who overturned him.

Cruz is loathed by the party establishment, and he stands little chance of appealing to mainstream voters. Marco Rubio’s strong showing in Iowa briefly made him something of a standard-bearer for the party’s moderates, but a disastrous turn at the last debate before New Hampshire has thrown the future of his candidacy into doubt.

The primary will also reveal who, if any, of the more moderate Republican candidates – among them Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie – will survive. While Bush has a massive funding advantage (albeit with precious little to show for it), Kasich and Christie both need a strong showing in New Hampshire to reinvigorate their financial reserves.

On the Democratic side, the key question is whether Bernie Sanders can make good on the surprising energy of his populist, grassroots challenge to Hillary Clinton. He is currently the heavy favourite in New Hampshire: even if Clinton somehow pulls off a miracle win there as she did in 2008, the closeness of the race is already stimulating both campaigns' national organisation and spending. And with what could be a long race between them heating up, the two’s growing mutual acrimony may yet start to undermine the Democrats' national appeal.

Gillian Peele Associate Professor in Politics and Tutorial Fellow at the University of Oxford.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.