Defusing the Environmental Logic Bomb in Brexit

Defusing the Environmental Logic Bomb in Brexit

Logic Bomb – def: A logic bomb is malware that is triggered by a response to an event or when a specific date/time is reached.

I recently participated in the People`s Vote march in London, as avid readers of my Facebook posts will know. I have never been much of one for demonstrations and marches on the basis that so many of them have proved to be counter-productive rather than influential in a significant way. I did speak at an anti-Iraq-War rally in Nottingham, which salved my conscience, both before the event and afterwards, too.  Sadly, it had little effect on events at the time.

The People`s Vote March in London felt different, however, and still feels different in hindsight. It helped, of course, that it was a delightfully sunny day and the mood was light, friendly and full of camaraderie. There was music of various kinds and various volumes to entertain us, one of my favourites being “Rinky-Dink” – a quirky mobile disco using cycle power to move it AND cycle power to raise the volume (the faster and harder the rear-cyclists pedal the louder it plays apparently!)

Also, we had a good contingent of Green Liberal Democrat members there with double sided, recyclable posters (the Green Party posters were made of plastic by the way!) and Graham Neale, our GLD Chair had made about a hundred of these posters up, so the rest were handed out to sympathetic Lib Dems, raising our profile within the crowd and were spread across social media too in lots of march photographs.

We also featured what one colleague has called “Guerrilla Marketing” for the group, with not only our members wearing our special Hi-Viz jackets, saying “Green Liberal Democrats – Action not words”, but with a few judicious gifts we managed to get some high-profile Lib Dems wearing the jackets too. As the photos show, both Sir Ed Davey, one of our current MPs and Sir Simon Hughes, one of our former MPs, took very little persuading to don the GLD publicity!

But, what has this got to do with the Environmental Logic Bomb and Brexit, referred to in the title above, I hear you ask. Well, let`s get serious for a minute. The march was both big enough and peaceful enough to make an impact, even on the BBC, which many anti-Brexit campaigners suggest has been very biased in favour of Brexit, previously ignoring, almost totally, earlier anti-Brexit marches. The figures quoted have varied significantly, from as low as 130,000 (dismissively) from a Brexit supporter to as high as 840,000. The number which seems to have stuck most frequently as an accepted figure is that the march contained about 700,000 people – over ONE percent of the total UK population, or more than the total population of a Greater Nottingham or a Greater Leicester.

Certainly I understand that Parliament Square was already full to the brim when there were still many thousands of people still standing in Hyde Park, not even having started to march towards the centre.

Doubtless for many, perhaps the majority, of those 700,000 people a key reason for being there was to raise the issue of the economic problems we will face if we actually leave the EU in even the softest of Brexits and the certainty of economic disaster if we end up with a “No-Deal” situation next March. Also, for many, there is a realisation that the Union of European countries has been a major factor in the enhancement of peaceful co-existence in an area of the world which has been at war, almost continuously for around a thousand years, perhaps longer. (It is, after all, not many years hence that we will be “celebrating”, if that is the correct word, the invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings by the Duc de Normandie, more usually referred to as William the Conqueror. 1066 and all that – by which time I shall be 119, if I last that long)

For me, however, whilst all that peace and economic surety is important, the most significant features of the European Project have been the Environmental Protections that have been put in place and the ongoing exertions to try and resolve the issues driving us towards deadly Climate Change. Already the deadening effect of negotiating (unsuccessfully) about the dreaded Brexit has imposed a huge opportunity cost on tackling Climate Change, which is truly an existential threat to humanity (and very large swathes of fauna and flora) around the globe.

This hugely incompetent Government and equally incompetent Labour (“so-called”) Opposition are spending most of their precious Parliamentary time trying to resolve the impossibilist demands of  brexiteers, against the brick wall of concerted European agreement that we cannot have our cake AND eat it.

Environmental Logic Bomb

The Brexit Environmental Logic Bomb is “political malware” that will be triggered by the specific date and time of leaving the EU – next March 29th, 2019. It is already in place. It was put into place by Mrs May with the active connivance of Jeremy Corbyn months ago when the European Withdrawal Bill was enacted and received Royal Assent on 26th June 2018. Debate upon the Bill was sparse, to say the least and it give the Government  and, more specifically, Government Ministers totally Henry Vlll powers to scrap provisions of 40 years-worth of European-wide well-debated legislation protecting our environment.

It is worth noting, by the way, that there were many chants at the People`s Vote March of the refrain “Where`s Jeremy Corbyn?”. His entirely avoidable absence from the march was noted and may prove to be his biggest political misjudgement yet (and there have been quite a few of those!), putting himself clearly on the wrong side of history. I believe, too, that Mrs May`s continued refusal to contemplate a People`s Vote on the final deal puts her on the wrong side of history. Both she and Corbyn and their very different core supporters vouchsafe their supposed conviction that some kind of deal can be done which will ensure economic benefits for all, carry on protecting our environment and “take back control” – but the truth is we never really lost “control”.

At the same time, we have cleaned our beaches, cleaned the rivers and protected the integrity of our foods (well, up to a certain point we have, at least!) with the assistance of like-minded citizens across Europe, in the face of businesses happily polluting the “common wealth” of our environment in the expectation that the public purse will pick up the tab for keeping the environment clean – in jargon it is called “externalising the costs” of pollution.

Also, at the same time the countries of the EU have made more progress, together, than we ever would have separately, in building a consensus to create more renewable energy (not least prompted by Liberal Democrats during the coalition years, it has to be said!) We have put into place energy “interconnectors” to share renewable energy production using wind or sun across the Channel, when sun or wind is not providing enough electricity in one part of Europe.

All of this progress will be subject to the calamitous Environmental Logic Bomb. And there are multiple detonators of the “If this … ,  then that…” variety.

Detonator #1: If there is “No Deal”

If there is no deal, then the system breaks down and there will be a significant period of confusion where the Government has already indicated they will “keep the borders open with as little disruption as possible“. This would be an invitation for all sorts of unscrupulous rogues to flout current environmental regulations with relatively little risk of being picked up. The Government will not want to cause delays and gridlock by stopping potentially dodgy importers – this risk has already been flagged up and broadly acknowledged with respect to smuggling stuff in duty free, but nobody seems to have mentioned the environmental rogues (and we KNOW there are plenty. You only have to see where much of our supposedly recyclable plastic waste has ended up when China stopped importing such recyclables, to know there ARE rogues out there!)

Detonator #2: If there is a fudged deal

This is actually a dual detonator. If Mrs May manages to cobble something together at the last negotiating minute that she can “sell” to her party (and this raises all sorts of questions about spineless politicians that I shall choose to ignore today) and Labour acquiesces once again as Mrs May`s “enabler” this could last a little while until the restless Leavers decide to upset the apple cart and rebel, therefore leading back to Detonator #1, when they realise they have been essentially conned and we are stuck in the worst of both worlds – basically having to do as we are told by the EU, but with no recourse to the negotiating table, because we would have no seat at that table.

If, on the other hand, the deal is sufficiently robust to last a while (personally I do not think this is possible but let us allow it for the sake of argument!)  then it will not be long before one or other of Mrs May`s ministers uses the Henry Vlll powers to change the rules by ministerial diktat rather than through a proper debate in the House of Commons. And we KNOW this will happen because the Tories have already “got form”.

Just look back less than three years. Under the Coalition before 2015, regulations were agreed to require new-build houses to be built to much higher environmental specifications with respect to insulation and so on. As soon as the Tories “had the place to themselves” they repealed this new legislation in 2016 even before it had chance to be put into effect, allowing builders to remain in the market providing, effectively, `sub-standard housing` – a retrograde step to say the least!

Defusing the Logic Bomb

There are two ways to defuse the Logic Bomb and they will only work if we change the “If THIS…” bit of the equation. The first way would be simply to revoke Article 50 which would require a Government with enough “Cojones” to stand up and say “Look folks, we have tried our best, but this really is NOT going to work and we believe it is securely in the interests of all the peoples of this United Kingdom, the environment and our European ideals of the four Freedoms.” However, barring a potential legal case going through the courts now challenging the validity of the passing of Article 50, this is politically not going to happen. I suppose there is the faintest of possibilities that a new Cross-Party grouping of MPs who believe in Europe manages to oust Mrs May, but I have to say it looks very unlikely.

The second way to defuse the Environmental Logic Bomb takes me back to the start of this blog post and it would be to hold a People`s Vote on the Deal that Mrs May might try to introduce to avoid the “No Deal” scenario. This is a scenario that even the Chancellor is now saying would be a catastrophe for the country. If the “No Deal” result is swept aside, the People`s Vote should then be held to ask the Question “Will you support the Government fudged deal, or take the safest Environmental route by staying inside the European Union?” If that question still elicits support for Brexit then we must accept that Brexit actually does mean Brexit, horrendous though that appears to staunch Remainers like me.

But that Logic Bomb would still be present and would cause major casualties on the environmental front, if it were to be detonated!!

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Posted in Article 50, Environment & Sustainable Development, European referendum, Henry Vlll, Politics | Leave a comment

Addendum – More than Two Hours late

My first post today has already commented upon the lack of professionalism of the live stream promised on the Liberal Democrat website not appearing as a live stream at all, after a much hyped “Leader`s Speech” from Vince, so I will say no more here, other than that the video was at least two hours late getting onto the site.

First, the good news. Vince wants to bring “Values” back into UK politics and in the brief “promo” video before he speaks there were three political value-based issues, one of which was the GREEN issue of Climate Change. This, in and of itself, is clear progress for our party`s Green heart which is music to my ears, as you might imagine from the person who became the founding Chair of the Green Liberal Democrats back in 1988.

Next the less-good news. As suggested by the leaks before the speech, Vince wants to widen participation in our `movement` – not a bad idea in its own right – but worrying when he wants people who are not paid-up members to have an unfettered say in who should be Party Leader. He speaks highly in favour of the online movements Avaaz, Change,org, 38 Degrees and so on and I have certainly voted many times for petitions on these website, but I would not vote for a Change.org candidate in a general election, nor yet an Avaaz candidate, however much enthusiasm I have for several Avaaz campaigns.

And I certainly would not be happy to see the Liberal Democrats led by someone who has not shared at least some of the trials and tribulations of surviving the continuous struggle for Liberal Values to be held as important in our world. It is this sense of “shared community” which gives our Party Leader her or his validation and enthuses workers to continue to work for the same values. I do not WORK for Avaaz values, I just agree with a lot of their petitions. But I DO work for Liberal Democrat Values – Especially GREEN Liberal Democrat Values.

For the moment I shall say no more on this Blog, but will continue working for those very values getting stuff ready for next week`s conference in Brighton.

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My Radical reaction to Vince`s speech

 

Hello I feel a blog coming on

I am starting to write this blog post at around 9am on Friday 7th September because there has been a lot of publicity over the last few days that Liberal Democrat Party leader Vince Cable is due to make an “exciting and important” speech in about half and hour. I shall be listening, of course, and then I hope to make a few comments of my own afterwards, depending upon what he says, of course.

So, why am I starting to write before he speaks you may ask? The reason is that I have been troubled by the rumours of what he is supposed, or expected, to be saying and I want to be ready to react as soon as possible afterwards, so I am writing my introduction on the basis of what I have heard and then will comment directly on his speech as soon thereafter as possible.

The rumours are that he will talk of creating a new “Centrist Movement”, presumably fed by people who may have some access to his thought process. If that is not the case, then we would then need to respond to the question of why and how such rumours started. Are those rumours meant to be supportive of a Centrist Movement, or were they designed to undermine what it is that Vince Cable is actually going to say.

The only legitimate way I can raise my concerns, then, is to lay the groundwork for those concerns before he has spoken and without the benefit of hindsight, otherwise my response will not be genuine, it would have been “constructed” – which is so often the way of pieces written after the event.

Why am I concerned about Centrist Movement rumours? Because I am not a Centrist and have argued in blog posts before, that I do not believe Liberal Democrats should be Centrist, because it ill-defines Liberalism and what that is really about. My other concern about the rumours is that there will be a suggestion, somehow, that people outside the framework of the party – in other words people not prepared to “pay their dues” to the Party, can somehow legitimately lay claim to voting for the leader of our political grouping or party. If that is going to be the case I shall argue below why I think it would be a bad idea, but I felt the need to lay that groundwork before hearing the speech.

OK, that task has been achieved in my mind, I shall now await the speech and we`ll see what gives. Since there is a little time left before 9.30 let me also say that there is a possibility that this is a clever tactic to double the amount of publicity we might have been expected to get from the Party Conference for a party that is still struggling along in the doldrums around 8% or 9% in opinion polls (Indeed, one recent poll even put us in fourth place behind a refreshed UKIP, where we were on 6% and they were on 7% or 8%!)

OK – it is now 9.36 and the speech was scheduled to start at 9.35 – the screen says “We’re currently experiencing technical difficultites with the livestream. Please stand by.” – By the way, it really does say “DIFFICULTITES” – that is the Party`s typo, not mine! 9.40am and the difficultites continue, just refreshed the screen!

Well – turning into a damp squib. 9.46 and the typo has been corrected but the live feed has not yet appeared, so I am now involved in a thread discussion. (9.54 now and it clearly is not going to be live-streamed at all. The on-screen message has been changed, the typo has been corrected, and we are told the speech will be “posted” on the page “soon”. I understand the speech is being made at the National Liberal Club, but no idea how large the audience is, nor whom it contains. There was a news item about a week ago where MPs and “leading Liberal Democrats” were told to keep today free because there was to be this exciting and important speech etc.

Takes me back about 50 years to when I was a trainee in Unilever`s advertising agency, Lintas. It was about this time of year too. I had only been employed a few weeks and about ten or a dozen trainees were working in syndicates preparing “advertising campaigns” for mythical products. Our group of four had worked up a really good campaign for those large bullet-like peas that did not make it into the Bird`s Eye packs of petit pois. It was (we thought, anyway) a cracking campaign and we presented it to the bosses at the agency, but we got two slides upside down in the projector. We laughed it off and thought we`d get plaudits for a fun campaign! As it was we got severely slated for getting the two slides upside down.

I remember it as clear as day – “You are in the communications industry! If you lose your audience at this stage with upside down slides, you`ll never win them back!” – a deeply learnt lesson about professionalism – sadly apparently lacking today!

OK, clearly, I cannot comment yet on the contents since I haven`t heard `em, so I will just have to comment on the rumours and come back to what Vince actually says (said?) later. The rumours are, then, that Lib Dems need to “become a movement” in somehow the same sense that Macron made a movement in France which led to him becoming President of France. Or, perhaps the way Justin Trudeau took hold of the Canadian Liberal Party and turned it back into a vote-winner.

Apparently (the rumours go) Vince sees the Liberal Democrats as the potential focal point for a Centrist group of exit-from-Brexit types including Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry. A sort of Grand Central Coalition maybe.

OK – it is just after 10.30 am and the BBC News Channel, during its 10.30 bulletin played a short clip from Vince Cable`s speech. We`ll have to wait and see if it is the only sound-bite that gets aired, but if so it has been presented as Vince paving the way for his retirement from the office of Leader in the next year and Vince determining that the Party should have a much wider choice for the next leader, including non-parliamentarians. “Politics in the UK is damaged”, he said, “if not broken”.

If that is it, I am not totally impressed that it was an exciting and important speech that warranted the hype, but will have to wait and see when the full speech has been posted on the website. If electing a leader from outside the Party is the ultimate goal, then there will have to be a change to the Constitution. There is no way that can happen at the Party Conference in Brighton next week, there is no debate and the date for emergency resolutions and amendments has already passed, so, unless there is a call for a Special Conference, or whether it needs to be brought to the Spring Conference, this is not about to happen soon. It is NOT in the gift of the Leader of the Liberal Democrats to make that change to the constitution from the top.

The Liberal Democrat party is a party of the members. It is democratic and any change to the constitution has to be passed by a two thirds majority. It looks as though the timing of the speech may have something to do with possibly raising a topical motion (in response to a topical matter – i.e. Vince`s speech) which would be about the only way a change could even be promulgated immediately. That would, however, require a special Conference because any change to the Constitution needs six weeks` notice.

I cannot comment any more until I see the speech in full – and there is no sign of it yet on the Party website. Perhaps I will write about this again, or maybe not, depends how exciting it gets

Posted in Elections, Politics, Radical Liberal | Tagged | 2 Comments

“It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…”

via “It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…”

Quote | Posted on by | Leave a comment

“It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…”

UBI – is it a GREEN issue?

UBI is usually referred to as the Universal Basic Income, but I rather like its alternative title of Unconditional Basic Income. It sounds more liberal and, indeed, actually Liberal, in the freedom it renders for its intended recipients – that is EVERYBODY.

Some politicians, even some economists, seem to treat UBI as an alternative form of unemployment benefit, just to be paid to those not fortunate enough to be in paid employment for whatever reason. However, as a potential `game-changer` in political and economic terms, Unconditional Basic Income actually has to be treated as a basic income for everybody. How each individual person treats her or his basic income is truly a Liberal matter, an intrinsic freedom of choice, provided, of course, that your choice does not infringe upon another person`s right to choose.

I can already hear a chorus of “noooo`s” emanating from people of a conservative tendency who will immediately assume it means higher taxes and a slightly quieter chorus of “yaay`s” from those on the left who may see it as a Marxist thing of “to each according to their needs”. Please bear with me for a while as I attempt to make not only a Liberal argument FOR Unconditional Basic Income, but also a Green case for UBI, as part of the economic changes needed to begin to hold off the Climate Catastrophe we are currently facing.

Basic Assumptions

This is a Blog post, so it will not be long enough to go into fine details in all aspects of the topic, so I shall have to declare a number of basic assumptions we all need to share in order to pursue my argument. Of course, if you do not accept these basic assumptions with me then the rest of the argument will logically fail, so here they are:

1 Climate Change is already with us and will get much worse if we do not act soon.

2 We may already be close to tipping points that will act as strong positive feedback loops to make Climate Change worse anyway

3 Population pressure globally and resource constraints mean that we need to stop using growth in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as the best measure of economic success in a world where Sustainable Development should now be the overarching goal

4 Sustainable development is “economic development that is conducted without depletion of natural resources” and the UN`s sustainable development goals SDGs provide a valuable guide as to what we need to achieve.

5 Although the argument for UBI is global, we can only really discuss it here in a UK context in a meaningful political sense.

“It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure. It`s the Poor what gets the pain…”

I used to play rugby and one of the songs we used to sing on the bus to and from the game, included the line used as a heading to this paragraph, followed by the line “It`s the same the whole world over. Ain`t it all a bloody shame!?” I suppose I should declare that as a further assumption, but it is actually the introduction to a technical issue that is at the heart of how UBI could really begin to ease the pain.

“Seigniorage” is defined as – the profit made by a government by issuing currency, especially the difference between the face value of coins and notes and their production costs. Clearly not much seigniorage in making a five pence piece, but quite a lot when making a twenty-pound note or a fifty-pound note. The trick to understanding the implications of this technical issue is to remember the historical derivation of the word. Seigniorage used to be “a thing claimed by a sovereign or feudal superior as a prerogative” – or in plain English – “It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…”

Governments do not say a whole lot about Seigniorage, but the present system worldwide means that the Central Banks that produce the money have control of this stuff and it gets handed out from the central banks to the commercial banks who then pass some of it on to their big business customers and, of course, to their already incredibly wealthy personal clients. “It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…”

If we were to change this system as part of the introduction of an Unconditional Basic Income the seigniorage would be reallocated to individuals, free, then, to choose how it should be spent.

Automation and employment

Ever since I was a teenager reading science fiction (and remember I am now 71 as I write this!) I have been apprised of the advancement of technology at an ever-increasing rate which “would mean everyone would have to work less and have much more free-time to spend doing what they wanted”. Unfortunately, the politicians must not have been reading the same books as me and have never devised an appropriate economic system for ensuring businesses, and the owners of those businesses, would fairly share out the great economic benefits of automation.

It is one of the problems of unfettered capitalism, the serious unfettering of which started under Mrs Thatcher, that the profits of automation accrued mostly to the owners of the capital, rather than the workforce or yet the community. It should be remembered that we all stand on the shoulders of those that went before, as Isaac Newton famously said about his own remarkable discoveries and learned writings. So the riches of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg would not have accrued to them without the technological advancements of previous generations, at least some part of which was due to educational advancements made by the common wealth of the community.

Of course, Mark Zuckerberg (and the rest) deserves some reward for his original thinking and development of his Facebook idea and its introduction to the world but at the age of 34 is it entirely reasonable as a basis of our economy that he has apparently accrued a net worth of around $67 billion without somehow being charged an appropriate “fee” for the access he has had to the Common Wealth of the world? My thesis is that the economic system should be much more redistributive and that an Unconditional Basic Income should be very much part of that redistributive process.

Is UBI a Green issue?

If you have followed me this far with my argument, and accept that change is necessary, let me now ask my original question. Is having an Unconditional Basic Income a Green Issue? – or, putting it another way, can UBI contribute to saving the planet`s biosphere from mankind`s depredation and despoliation.

Perhaps you can guess that my answer to this largely rhetorical question is “YES”, but let me try and explain why I think that is the case. Please recall I am arguing that it is part of a whole approach which moves away from GDP growth towards a circular economy, based upon sustainable development goals. In such a new economic environment there will exist many who would feel strongly that they would prefer to ensure our survival and that of the biosphere, rather than continuing with the largely competitive pressures of a consumerist life. Once you can be sure that you would not suffer penury by opting out of the rat race, such a move would hold much greater appeal to many people.

This is not just an idle hope on my part, it is actually a reflection of the behaviour of many, perhaps most, retired people whose pensions are sufficiently above poverty levels. Some prefer to use their time to take longer holidays, some for creative and artistic purposes, many for greater family interactions and so on, but there is a huge volunteer force of pensioners involved with the National Trust for example, or the RSPB nature reserves, or any number of environmental good causes, including many small-scale community-based initiatives.

With UBI, the scope of many volunteer-based projects could be expanded very significantly and, indeed, it would be a very liberal (and Liberal) idea to support such schemes with public funds, too, in order to encourage specifically environmentally desirable projects for example. There was a recent thread on Facebook, for example, discussing the benefits of rewilding the British uplands which could benefit significantly by additional volunteer force planting trees and maintaining footpaths and so on. But that is just one example – we also heard at the GLD conference in Nottingham in May of this year, about city based local food growing projects, all of which are based upon volunteer forces to some extent. These could be extended and scaled up, providing much more opportunity for fresh vegetables to be grown and used locally, saving many “food-miles” and benefitting air pollution as well as population healthy eating options.

I hope to submit an amendment to the wealth resolution at the Brighton Conference next month introducing the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income as part of the multiplicity of means to redistribute wealth in our nation (and perhaps across the world eventually) so if you are at the conference, please help me to explain seigniorage to the assembled delegates!

It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…aint it all a bloody shame!?

 

Posted in Environment & Sustainable Development, Food and stuff, Politics, Radical Liberal, Wildlife | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Update – Keith, a Green Liberal Democrat

Just a short post today – I thought it was about time I updated my status on the Blog. Although I happen to be in Brazil as I am writing this I am no longer really an “expat” in Brazil since I moved back to the UK back in 2015 (see what I mean by `updating` !!)

So I have headed the Blog as “Keith Melton – Green Liberal Democrat” instead of “Expat in Brazil”, since I now spend an awful lot of my time on trying to change the world (at least the UK!) to take proper account of the pressing environmental issues we face.

I guess most of you reading this will already know that I rejoined the Liberal Democrats last year before the General Election and I also rejoined the Green Liberal Democrats at the same time. If you want to know what set me off on the “Green path” it was almost entirely serendipitous. I think I have written of it before but not quite sure when, so let me regale you with the story again if you`ll bear with me. If you know the answer just glide over the next couple of paragraphs!

Serendipity

I had gone back to UMIST for my Master`s and rejoined the Union of Liberal Students. One of the officers asked me, “since you have done it before, would you like to speak in a debate for us?” “Sure”, I said, “what`s the debate about?”

“Free Public Transport”, he said. “Which side of the debate do you want me to speak on?” I said, since you should be able to know the subject well enough to debate either side of the argument! Hesitation on part of said officer, temporarily non-plussed – “You choose!” So I said after a moment,”I will speak FOR Free Public Transport” … and that decided the direction of the rest of my life! So, do have a care when you speak, you never quite know what long-term effect it may have.

I have, for the most part, thoroughly enjoyed my Environmental activism, although it has occasionally (perhaps quite often if truth be told!) been rather frustrating when the “world” has not been listening, or, if listening, not taking notice! But it is now providing me with lots of new opportunities in my “retired” state and brought me back in touch with many old friends as well as bringing new friends into my purview, for which I am delighted.

So, here we are, with a newly updated status for my Blog, new title, new picture, new central focus. If you think you will like the concentration on Green Issues and want to keep in touch, then please sign up to “Follow” the blog and then you will receive a nudge every time I write a new post. Let us see if between us we can actually change the world into a greener better place – and actually survive intact, without destroying the planet.

Talking of which – destruction – those long-time Liberals amongst you might enjoy the song I wrote earlier this year, which updates the old Liberal standard “The Land”, sung to the tune “Marching through Georgia”. It has appeared in my blog before, but here it is again…

The Earth

Adapted from “The Land” to the tune of “Marching through Georgia”

Chorus

The Earth, the Earth

This is our Planet Earth

The Earth, the Earth

The land that gave us birth

How can we destroy it

Now we know what it is worth

Save the earth from the people

Animals are crying out to save their only home

The birds are also screeching to leave their home alone

Fish and whales are joining in amongst the crashing foam

Save the earth from the people.

Chorus

Climate change is killing us from too much C-O-2

Plastic waste is everywhere in oceans grey and blue

Poison gases choking us which cars and engines spew

Save the earth from the people

Chorus

Politicians we can`t trust to save our planet now

Corbyn, May and Donald Trump are names we`ll disavow

Perhaps we`ll find a way to save it, please just ask us how

To save the earth from the people

Final chorus

 

 

Posted in Environment & Sustainable Development, Life..., Serendipity | 2 Comments

Brazil presidency 2018

Brazil presidency 2018

It is Election year again in Brazil this year and we have already had a Facebook promise to take down fake news pages (which prompted demonstrations outside FB offices claiming the pages were not fake!) so I wonder whether we might yet see a cleaning up of politics in this very politically corrupt country. I should say I am an Englishman married to a Brazilian woman for the last 7 years, so I have only seen one Presidential election close at hand. I have a permanent visa, through my marriage, but no residency, so I am not allowed to vote.

The final date for Presidential candidates to be nominated was last Sunday, 5th August. Despite there being over 30 actual political parties (proportional representation allows widespread fragmentation, but, sadly, does not prevent widespread corruption!) there are only 13 Candidates, some of them with several parties backing them.

What do we know so far?

The current 77 year-old President, Michel Temer, who came to power in what many people in Brazil see as a coup against Dilma Rousseff, for whom he was the Vice President, indicated earlier in the year that he was going to stand, but his approval ratings were in single figures and there were, and remain, a lot of question marks about his personal “cleanliness” from corruption. So, Temer is NOT standing and his party has rebranded itself from the PMDB, changing back to the Movimento Democratico Brasiliero – MDB – perhaps hoping to shake off the corrupt image, reverting to identify itself with the big-tent movement which emerged in 1979 after 14 years of military rule in Brazil.

The MDB candidate is Henrique Meirelles, who was Minister of the Economy under Temer from 2016 to 2018 and had been President of the Central Bank of Brazil 2003-2011. One of the quirks of Brazil, by the way, is that the “H” is not pronounced in a name and the “r” is pronounced as if it were an “h” so Henrique becomes Enheekay, sounding somewhat strange to the English ear.

Brazilian electoral law stipulates that television airtime must relate to the percentage of seats held by the candidate`s party plus any supporting coalition parties. Meirelles and the MDB therefore benefit from plenty of relative airtime, but, despite that, Meirelles has not yet made much impression on the electorate.

The same can be said of Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democrats) who has the backing of seven other smaller parties. Perhaps the reason he has made little headway, however, is that Aecio Neves, former head of the PSDB, and a candidate for President in 2014, has made too many bad headlines for the party as a recipient of huge bribes in the country`s corruption scandals, so the party`s deputies are all severely tainted.

Similarly, Alvaro Dias of the PODE group of three parties which go under the title of Podemos (Portuguese for “We Can”, an optimistic slogan if ever there was, as Barak Obama discovered!) has also managed to make no serious impact upon the electorate.

Small Party status.

Oddly, on the other hand, three of the front-runners in terms of impact, so far, do not have as much air-time on TV, because they represent smaller parties. Marina Silva was a Presidential candidate four years ago and came quite high in the popular vote but not high enough to make the second round of voting. She has left the party which she represented, which has been tainted with some corruption accusations (though none touching her personally) She has started a new movement the Sustainability Party (REDE) in a way along similar lines to the way President Macron did in France. We have yet to see if it can be as successful. As an environmentalist myself she would be my first choice by a long way.

In 2014, Marina, coming from an environmentalist background (she had been the Green Party candidate in 2010 getting 19% in the first round vote) was chosen as Vice-Presidential candidate by Eduardo Campos of the PSB (Brazil`s Socialist party). Campos was killed in a somewhat controversial plane crash in August 2014 and, in something of a hurry, Marina was then chosen by the PSB to be their official Presidential candidate. From that point on she was doing very well in the opinion polls and at one point was literally neck and neck with Dilma Rousseff, the eventual winner. However, her support fell away somewhat towards the last couple of weeks of the campaign and she slipped into a close third place to Aecio Neves, thus not making the second-round run-off with Dilma. (First round Dilma 40%; Neves 24%; Marina 22%)

Controversial right-wing candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, has chosen a retired general as his running mate, but the suggestion was not approved of initially by his Social Liberal Party (PSL). His political positioning, by the way, is neither Social nor Liberal in the English sense at all.  I suppose it might be categorised as libertarian, in the sense that he seems in favour of (elite) individuals having plenty of freedom, particularly from the burden of paying taxes. He has been categorised in international articles as a sort of Brazilian Trump character, with typically right-wing disciplinarian intentions and a similarly misogynistic view of women.

The other candidate doing pretty well at the moment is Ciro Gomes of the PDT, Brazil`s Democratic Labour party. Considered as “centre-left” he comes from a family heavily engaged in politics (his father and Uncle as well as two siblings have all been elected officials). Gomes, known in Brazil simply as Ciro, seems well-liked and has had ministerial experience under Lula, as well as having a high profile as an academic with economic credentials.

Closely identified with his home state of Ceara in the North East of Brazil he has been the State`s Governor, as well as representing the state as its federal deputy from 2007-2010. As seems quite common in Brazil he has been a member of several parties over the years, as far as I can see at least seven different parties resting now in the PDT since 2015. Perhaps because of this he knows where quite a few of the bodies are buried?!

One of the largest political parties in Brazil, the PT (Workers’ Party), of former two-term president Lula and (one-and-a-half-term) Dilma Rousseff, is in an unusual position. PT has chosen former President Lula as its presidential candidate. Unfortunately for them, Lula is in prison at the moment for corruption and has therefore been ruled ineligible to run. As the Rio Times has pointed out, Lula “… leads in all polls, and his coalition will have a healthy amount of free air time. PT has decided former SP mayor Fernando Haddad will run if Lula is declared ineligible, but Haddad was so unpopular that he could not win re-election as mayor in 2016.”

The Party is appealing the ineligibility ruling and it is expected not to be finally sorted out until some time in September, with the first round of the election taking place in early October. Lula is still very popular and would probably win the popular vote if people voted tomorrow. What will happen over the next few weeks, however, is rather unpredictable, the final result probably depending upon the extent to which Haddad can make inroads as a credible candidate in his own right.

There is a very strong sense that voters would love to put the country`s corruption behind them, but it has to be said that corruption seems pretty endemic to the political system here and it is by no means clear whether the imprisonments of the worst culprits, Cunha, Cabral, Neves and the rest has cleared the dirt enough for people to be confident that the newly elected representatives and the new President will have enough “clean power” to keep mucking out the stables!

It will be interesting to see over the forthcoming weeks whether the appearance on television or their links on the internet prove to be the making or breaking of their campaigns. Personally, I am rooting for Marina to do better than she managed in 2014 and certainly hoping to goodness that Bolsanaro is not able to make any serious progress as a Brazilian Trump. I guess we will have to wait and see!

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