The Right must take climate change seriously

Labour MP Tom Harris argues that there are no Tory bloggers who accept the ‘scientific consensus’ on climate change. While I disagree with his use of the term ‘consensus’, I agree that this is a very worrying trend.

For the record, Mr. Harris, I do accept the link between human activity and climate change. I believe we must take urgent steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to conserve and protect natural habitats and species. I was disappointed – but not surprised – by the outcome of the Copenhagen talks.

Unfortunately, the Right is divided on this issue. Team Cameron are committed to a green agenda (although their commitment to green taxation seems to have waned during this recession), but I get the impression that many backbenchers and party activists are less than enthused by the ‘Vote Blue, Go Green’ programme.

ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie has suggested that climate change could be as divisive an issue for the Tories as Europe was in the 1990s. One of the points he makes is that, while the Conservative leadership is committed to environmentalism, nearly three quarters of Tory members surveyed by his website feel that climate change is exaggerated by the media.

This is a potentially dangerous state of affairs. If we are to have any hope of combating the threat that climate change poses, action must be taken very swiftly indeed. Having large parts of the Tory blogosphere criticising a future Conservative government’s pro-environmental stance will be damaging; especially if they urge the Tory activists who read them to oppose it also.

I would urge anyone who is a climate change sceptic to read this fantastic article by Bryan Appleyard in The Sunday Times. It is a well argued, factually-based piece and is the most persuasive defence of anthropogenic global warming I have read to date. I would say more here, but the article is so good that I do not need to! Further information can be found here.

Turning a blind eye to climate change would be catastrophic. It is not an issue that will only affect the future; it is happening now, and we must attempt to curb our impact now. David Cameron seems to recognise this. However, if he wins the next election, he will have to make sure that the pressures of rebuilding the economy and stabilising the public finances do not push climate change down his political agenda.

This post will probably not make me many friends within the Conservative blogosphere. However, I strongly believe that its current ambivalence (at best…) towards climate change is potentially very harmful, both to the country and the conservative movement itself.

While I personally believe the scientific evidence, I will end the post with one more thought: it doesn’t matter if the evidence is correct or not. If it is, then surely we are morally obliged to do everything in our power to stop global warming? Any other course of action would be incredibly reckless. A global temperature increase of over two degrees would be catastrophic. If there is even a remote chance that we can prevent it, then we must try.


David Taylor MP

I know I’m a little late on this, but on Boxing Day Labour MP David Taylor died of a heart attack. By all accounts he was a committed, principled and extremely pleasant man. The House of Commons needs more men and women like him. I am sure David Taylor will be sorely missed.

It is a terrible tragedy to happen to any family, especially so close to Christmas. My condolences are with his wife, Pam, and his four daughters.

The execution of Akmal Shaikh

Today China executed a British citizen, after finding him guilty of drug smuggling offences. Apparently a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and delusional psychosis was ignored by the Chinese court. Pleas by the British government and the charity Reprieve to grant Mr. Shaikh more leniency were also dismissed.

I am not a legal expert, so I will not wade in to detail of the case. However, I do with to make a few points:

– Firstly, China does not have a good record on human rights issues. If the psychiatric diagnosis was indeed ignored by the court, then Mr. Shaikh was denied a fair trial. If that had happened in Britain, I think I am right in saying that it would have necessitated a retrial. At the very least it would cast the court’s decision in doubt.

– Secondly, the Foreign Office Minister who dealt with this case was Ivan Lewis, not David Miliband. Surely an issue of this seriousness warrants an intervention from the Foreign Secretary, not a junior minister? I do not believe that Miliband is mentioned once in the BBC article.

– Thirdly, this will damage our relationship with China. Our government has criticised the Chinese, and China has already responded in kind. The diplomatic repercussions of Mr. Shaikh’s execution are as yet unknown.

Over on his blog, Iain Dale has posted an interesting piece about the silence of Baroness Ashton, the new EU High Representative. Hardly an auspicious start for her…

Whatever the facts of the case, the death penalty is morally wrong. My thoughts are with Mr. Shaikh’s family at this time.

Is marriage becoming a solely middle class institution?

David Willetts claims so in a recent Guardian article. If this is correct, it would be a very bad development. Marriage can benefit everyone – it should never be restricted to an ‘affluent elite’.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Tory Green Paper on family policy. If this Guardian article is anything to go by, it could be a very significant policy document indeed.

One week on…

So, just over a week has passed since I started this blog. I’m new at blogging and still finding my feet, so I thought I would review my own blog and make a few changes.

Overall, it has been a very positive week! I’ve had more readers than I expected – many thanks must go to Iain Dale for linking to me on my first day – and the feedback about my posts has been positive. A good start, I reckon.

Most of my posts so far have been quite long, and quite detailed. I think that is good – I want this site to be somewhere people can come for an in-depth discussion of the issues. However, I do not have the time to continue writing long articles at the rate I have been (I wanted to get some good content up as quickly as I could in the first few days). I also think there needs to be more variety on the site.

So, I’m going to rotate between the longer, more analytical articles like my ones on marriage and Cameronism, and shorter articles like my link to Tory Rascal. That way I can keep up a regular flow of in-depth analysis, but will also have some new content (often in the form of links to other good posts and articles) up on the site every day.

I will also be adding photos to some future posts, which a few readers have asked for!

Any feedback on these changes would be greatly appreciated. I want to make this site as readable as possible, so your input is invaluable.

I hope you all had a great Christmas, and thanks for reading PBV! Please keep doing so, and encourage all your friends to have a look too.

p.s. I have also added an ‘Email subscribe’ Widget to the right hand side…sign up for email alerts when I post new content! Thanks

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Back the ban

The BBC is reporting that Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, is launching a campaign to boost support for retaining the ban on fox hunting. David Cameron has pledged to give MPs a free vote on repealing this ban. The likelihood is that a Tory majority after the next election would see the ban abolished and it would become legal to hunt foxes with hounds once again.

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I am in favour of retaining the ban. I accept that it is not a perfect piece of legislation, and that very few people who break this law are brought to trial. But that is not an argument to get rid of the ban; it is an argument to improve it.

Fox hunting is a bloodsport. It is brutal and barbaric. There should be no place for it in Britain and it’s one issue where I think the Tories have got it completely wrong.

I’ve discussed this several times with pro-hunting people. Their arguments in favour usually revolve around the tradition of the hunt, the social aspect of it and the need to keep the fox population low to avoid them killing farmers’ hens and other poultry. Let me deal with these arguments one at a time, because they are all ridiculous.

Firstly, tradition. I may be conservative, but I do not accept that tradition alone makes something inherently good. Yes, many hunts have long histories and they do form a traditional part of life in many rural areas. But does that alone make them acceptable? Of course not. Things have to be judged by their virtues, as well as their place in history. As far as I’m concerned, fox hunting has no virtue.

Secondly, it’s defenders point to the social element. No-one can deny that it is a thoroughly social ‘sport’. For many people, I would guess, this is the main reason for going to hunts. But again, that is absolutely no argument in favour of animal cruelty.

Thirdly, the foxes-as-pests argument. Foxes break into chicken coops and sheds, and kill all the poultry in them. All true. But, yet again, no argument in favour of using hounds to hunt them down and rip them to pieces. Are they really saying that humans – a species that has put men on the Moon and split the atom – can’t stop foxes from getting into chicken sheds? Get real.

Of course, there is another argument: that fox hunting really isn’t that cruel at all. The hounds only catch up with the sick or old foxes, which are going to die soon anyway. Another ridiculous argument. The idea of killing any animal purely for sport is morally wrong. Trying to rationalise it as some form of mercy kill does not change that.

Fox hunting is on the same level as bear baiting and cock fighting. They are all cruel and unnecessary, and none of them should be legal. You don’t hear calls to reintroduce cock fights or bear baiting, do you? And neither should we bring back fox hunting.

And as for the Countryside Alliance’s argument that the ban should be repealed because it’s ‘illiberal’…I hardly know where to start. Clearly individual freedom is more important to them than animal welfare. Do they class the bans on other blood sports as illiberal also? How about laws prohibiting the mistreatment of pets or farm animals? How far are they prepared to go? Should we repeal them all? I think not.

I applaud Hilary Benn’s effort and I hope that this leads to a strengthening of the anti-hunt movement. Perhaps then – if Cameron wins and calls a free vote – public pressure might lead to the retention of this legislation.

I’ll just leave with with one last thought. I’ve already said that fox hunting is on the same level as bear baiting and cock fights. But this isn’t entirely true. The other two blood sports – which were banned ages ago – were mainly enjoyed by the working classes. Fox hunting – which was only banned recently, and might be legalised again very soon – has traditionally been a form of entertainment for a privileged, well-connected rural elite. Coincidence?

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers. Have a great day!

I’ll resume blogging tomorrow afternoon.