I’ve always found politics fascinating. Not the theatrical pantomime of Prime Minister’s Questions – where ironically, answers are few and far between -, but actual politics.
Quite why there persists in people’s minds the idea that politics is complicated baffles me, as politics isn’t complicated at all. One is meant to think that it is, and that suits the main political parties just fine and dandy. Political parties claim to want voter engagement but actually they fear an informed electorate. Largely because, just as Dorothy discovers in ‘The Wizard Of Oz’, the electorate will realize when they pull back the curtain that the wizard is not a wizard at all, but in fact an ordinary man, and they will react with anger that for so long the truth has been hidden from them.
In a later entry, I promise to outline my theory that anyone who understands how a family operates – the dynamics and tensions that are at play, the ever shifting balance of powers between the parents and the children and the temporary alliances built on need – can understand politics. Anything that is so complicated that at its most basic level it cannot be explained to anyone with an I.Q. larger than the radius of their kneecap, suggests that the fault lies with the person attempting to simplify the complicated. I promise I will outline my theory in another post, but now is not the time.
Instead, I want to draw your attention to Caroline Lucas M.P., who – it seems to me at any rate – is congenitally incapable of uttering anything less than common sense. Given that it is said that the thing about common sense is it isn’t very common, this is a rare quality indeed, rarer still in a politician. It matters not if you agree with what she says or not, but she says it in easily comprehensible English and not in the sophistry laden nonsense that politicians normally speak.
Here is but one example;
On Wednesday 18th June 2014, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee was hearing evidence regarding the National Pollinator Strategy. Sounds boring, but is of the utmost concern to any right thinking person. Pollinator is another word for bees and other insects that pollinate a third of all plants on the planet. Einstein once prophetically remarked that “Mankind couldn’t survive the honeybee’s disappearance for more than five years”. This will take you to a far more reasoned and coherent explanation as to why you should care. If you don’t already, that is.
Giving evidence to the committee and refuting the possibility that any research funded by the very companies that stood to lose if the research proved conclusively that there was a link between certain pesticides and dwindling pollinator numbers, was Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Officer at the Department of the Environment, Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), who said
“That’s a very relevant point, but just because they’re paying for the studies and leading the studies doesn’t mean to say that the studies are invalid” Then Dr. Julian Little, from pesticide maker Bayer told the committee that,“Yes, we are putting the money up for it but it’s being done by independent scientists, they’re sorting out the protocols, they’re working with both DEFRA and EFSA (European Food Standards Authority) to ensure those protocols are relevant.”
Naturally, I was shouting in my head at the radio – the quite excellent ‘Today in Parliament’ on Radio Four – “Has no one heard of the saying ‘He who pays the piper names the tune’’’ when just in time Caroline Lucas restored some much needed sanity to proceedings, when she said,
“In such a contested area, having properly independent peer reviewed research, rather than research that could be seen from the outside as if it would be in the interest of the person paying for it, surely that is a compelling reason to look again at the degree to which the strategy depends on research being carried out by private companies”
But proving, not for the first, and certainly by no means for the last time, that this government has taken Oscar Wilde’s quote that, “A cynic is a man who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.” as part of its decision making process, Boyd then said, to my utter astonishment “The question is just whether we can afford from a public perspective, to fund these types of studies and I go back to what I said earlier on, that these types of studies are very large scale and the bigger they get, the more expensive they get”
Words fail. What could possibly be more important? In what universe is a tax cut to the top earners from 50p to 45p, more important than funding research into declining pollinator numbers? What good is a tax cut when there’s a chance that in the very near future there won’t be enough food to feed everyone? About as much use as a porcelain golf ball. A tax cut, moreover which, depending on whom you believe, will cost the Exchequer between a £100 million or £3 billion, sufficient methinks, to pay for the research. But hey, I could be wrong.
But we can’t afford this research? Didn’t one David Cameron, the former honorary president of The Oxfordshire Beekeepers Association, giving evidence to the same committee not so long ago, say,”If we don’t look after our bee populations, very, very serious consequences will follow.” After that performance in front of the committee, No.10 felt compelled to issue the following statement, clarifying his position “The prime minister is a strong advocate of beekeeping in his constituency and as he said in the house, it’s important we look after our bee population.” Only a skeptic would draw one’s attention to the careful wording of that statement, especially “ a strong advocate of beekeeping in his constituency” which carefully avoiding saying anything that might suggest advocacy for beekeeping beyond his constituency.
Step forward, then Caroline Lucas, who retorted to Boyd, “It just worries me greatly if alarm bells aren’t ringing throughout government because we can’t afford to do the research we need to do to see if we’re at great risk.”