The run up to Parliamentary summer recess is generally characterised by the government finishing off uncontentious business as the final days clock down. Not so this year as we find ourselves in the full swing of the Conservative Party leadership election.
I’ve stayed purposefully detached from the fray, but I have to say I am unimpressed that we find ourselves changing Prime Minister once more. Some may say that Boris had to go: his errors, lack of attention to detail and other misdemeanours were too great for him to stay. Whatever his faults he did deliver a huge, once in a generation Conservative majority, got the constitutional impasse of Brexit over the line and prevented Jeremy Corbyn and his Marxist brand from being anywhere close to government. I have had constituents in the street deeply unhappy about his defenestration. I’d recommend that we all write down the reasons he ‘had to go’, put in an envelope and open again in a couple of years’ time and see how these reasons then look. Just a thought.
I was in Gibraltar on a Parliamentary trip with the European Scrutiny Committee as the Ministerial resignations piled up and the inevitable resignation arrived. A little-known fact, and the reason for the trip, is because negotiations are at a critical stage for the new tripartite UK-Gibraltar-EU deal. Gibraltar left the EU with the UK but an ongoing agreement for Gibraltar’s unique situation has yet to be finalised and so it finds itself in a roll-over halfway house.
The trip was fascinating, meeting the Chief Minister and members of his Cabinet, senior civil servants, the UK armed forces and finally residents who face border delays and in some cases outright refusal to cross into Spain by some Spanish border officials whose determination on free passage depends on the mood of the border guard of the day. An inscrutable position given that 15,000 Spanish workers enter a buoyant Gibraltar daily for work taking their salaries home to Andalusia, an area of high unemployment.
Additionally many Gibraltarians and temporary residents spend millions shopping in Southern Spain which adds to the mystery of the behaviour of the Spanish Government. I suppose little changes as the border has been used regularly over decades as a point of friction.
As we bask in hot weather many will claim, as ever, this is the reality of global warming. That maybe so, but we’ve had heatwaves before and one need only look at the weather patterns in the USA in the 1930s which were truly brutal with extended record-breaking hot weather. One thing I can guarantee with a high degree of certainty is that the weather will revert to overcast, windy and rainy for the summer holidays.
Strange isn’t it that we look to travelling abroad to similar temperatures with a smile but grumble when we have similar here, however irregularly. But let’s say yes, this is because of human activity and will be an ongoing feature of the UK weather pattern. We are looking at a cost of £3 Trillion to reach Net Zero, probably now more as the £3Tn was based on building the infrastructure, laying the cables, making the concrete, smelting the metals, making the batteries etc. on the back of lower cost energy and upon copper and commodities costs far lower than what we’re seeing today. Just to put this into context, this is about 150% of the entire annual output of the UK economy or 1,500 times the size of the annual Kent County Council budget. We are responsible for just 1% of global output of CO2; growing nations like China, India and Indonesia are ramping up their coal production so their economies can grow on the back of cheaper energy and their populations can be taken further out of poverty.
Even if our costly endeavours got our 1% of CO2 output to zero, I can hardly see that spending £3 Trillion or more can be good value or will do anything at all beyond being a costly ‘virtue-signal’. Better I’d have thought to spend on adaptation to a changing climate. This eye-watering amount of money could buy a lot of home insulation, expand traditional domestic energy supply, eliminate practically every domestic funding shortfall, plant a lot of trees, improve sea defences if necessary and be a force for real good in the world.
On local issues I’ve been working with the leaders of Dover District Council to get a Levelling Up Fund bid into a better place and am spending an increasing amount of time within the offices of Thanet District Council as the £20m Levelling Up Fund allocation progresses to action and on other locally important issues.
I had a meeting with the new CEO of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust which included a tour of the maternity suite at QEQM. A substantial investment by a local company is on the horizon. I’ve been trying to encourage those with the corporate purse strings that Thanet is undoubtedly the place to do business.
We know it is, we love it.