Embracing the old guy stuff while worrying about the political environment…

Meet the granddaughter, a giggle-pot marvel of inquisitiveness and determination. She may pull my newspapers on the floor and tear them up, but she is unquestionably the best child ever to pop out into this planet.

She is taking small steps already, three or four at a time, although they are not so small when you are still a month away from turning one. They are giant steps for baby-kind.

These are not merely the observations of a fond grandparent, although that too. What a reward it is to reach this stage of life, even if you once thought, oh, I am too young for all that malarkey.

Wise up Pops – for that is what I am now called – you are 66, for heaven’s sake. Time to embrace the old guy stuff.

The reason for mentioning all this is not just grandfatherly pride. One day, that little girl will take an interest in the world she inherits from her parents and grandparents.

While I don’t wish to sully her with politics, you can’t help worrying when the planet she will grow up on is being used as a political football.

Last week’s three by-elections were mostly bad for the Tories, who suffered two defeats. But the fly in the electoral ointment came in Uxbridge, Boris Johnson’s old seat, where the Tories clung on, although with a majority of less than 500.

Not much of a victory, although you wouldn’t have known it from espying cocky little Rishi Sunak parked up in the constituency and spewing out polluting guff about how it shows you can’t trust Labour, and anyway no-one likes the environment, or something.

The Tories scraped home by exaggerating the likely effects of extending Sadiq Khan’s air-cleansing policy, the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez). Their candidate used this as a wedge and stood not so much for the Conservatives as against Ulez.

Reportedly, Labour canvassers came across local drivers of electric cars complaining about how much the scheme would cost them, when the scheme penalises only the oldest and most polluting petrol or diesel cars.

What a cock up it was for Keir Starmer’s party not to come out with some good lines beforehand. Why didn’t they just say, “We believe people deserve to breathe clear air”. Or they could have suggested paying higher scrappage compensation to drivers of polluting cars so they could buy something less stinky.

Instead, Labour nervously stayed away from a hot local topic, and suffered as a result (although their surprise victory in Selby, usually a Tory stronghold, offered better news).

The danger in this and other matters is that Labour ends up with the advertising slogan: Like the Tories but not quite so shit. It’s hardly encouraging.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have made noises about possibly having to row back on their commitment to environmentally friendly policies. For Labour, this seems to be a matter of nerves, and not wishing to give hostages to fortune to the Tories.

For the Tories, it a wish to weaponize absolutely everything, from the climate to alleged wokeness; from the evils of the left-wing blob (whatever that might be) to Nigel Farage’s unimportant banking troubles. Nothing is too small or irrelevant or blatantly ridiculous not to be flourished as a distraction.

According to New Scientist magazine earlier this week, climate change made the heatwaves in North American and Europe “at least 1,000 times more likely and the heatwave in China around 50 times more likely”.

The threat is real, and our politicians need to take notice and grasp the potentials of green energy and industries, not indulge in petty squabbles. Or, as right-wingers do, insist there isn’t a problem at all, and we should just carry on, cut taxes and forget about being green.

Or for the usual suspect newspaper to get all hot about the gills over the red areas on the BBC’s ‘misleading’ weather maps. When you’re that dim, even the weather is woke.

As for “carry on and forget”, that’s been the way for most Conservative governments. Margaret Thatcher far-sightedly acknowledged in the late 1980s that mankind was damaging the environment, only for her enthusiasm to do anything about it to evaporate under a privatised sun.

David Cameron rode in on a husky proclaiming he would front “the greenest government ever”, only reportedly later to proclaim that it was time to “get rid of all the green crap”.

And Boris Johnson, oh I suppose we must mention that man. He seemed genuinely to care about the environment for about five minutes, until his in-and-out mind wandered elsewhere.

As for Starmer, well, his party have made encouraging noises about a “fairer, greener future”. Let’s hope they don’t get snarled up in a congested cul-de-sac in Uxbridge.

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