Author Archives: David Brunnen

Democracy – now on the Risk Register

An appreciation of Lord Puttnam’s recent address – The Shirley William’s Memorial Lecture: POWER AND FEAR – THE TWO TYRANNIES.

Was anybody listening?

If so, what did they hear?

If they heard, then what, exactly, did they understand?

Timing is everything.

In the heat of intense political clamour, unleashed as one of their own was murdered, the calm authoritative voice may have been lost in that moment.

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MOVE – Shuffling Humanity

It is just possible to read Parag Khanna’s latest work and take comfort in our prospects here in Europe’s troubled offshore island – but that optimism (as learned when coding in the late 60’s) – is a Multiple IF statement.  The likelihood of a positive outcome is dependent on passing a series of successively dependent tests, each with its own probability of success.  IF this, IF that, and IF something else, THEN this may be.  Optimists may rejoice that the ELSE, and the timeframe, remains unstated.  Even the far-seeing Parag Khanna can only divine a favourable outcome for Britain ‘despite itself’.

As we all edge ever closer to COP26 in Glasgow, and media outlets and governments turn their talents towards analysing climatic challenges, Parag’s focus is humanity – how mass migration will reshape the entire world.  Those of us who were captivated by Bronowski’s ‘Ascent of Man’ back in 1973 may still vividly recall the migrating Lapps and their reindeer herds.  Their nomadic wanderings across the arctic in search of grazing and shelter may have only recently faded but will be as nothing to the emergent mass migrations in search of climatic sufficiency, sustainability, and survival.

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Local Rights and Responsibilities

Robyn Vinter is a journalist based in Leeds, and, no surprise, writes about the UK’s over-centralisation, the need for devolution and stronger local governance. Her observations from Yorkshire are not, however, uniquely Northern. Here, in Robyn’s piece published by ‘New Local’, local voices reflect widespread concerns for Local Authorities lacking authority:

… when you really dig down to the specific local issues, among the well-informed and carefully considered responses, more often than not people will talk about things that councils have little control over or are just simply not responsible for. They talk about council tax bandings, the number of jobs available for young people locally and poor public transport networks.

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Climate Crisis – the challenge is to confront reality

As COP26 – December’s international convention in Glasgow – becomes a major media focus, the scrutiny of environmental plans and policies will be intensified.

Parties across the political spectra are now preparing proposals that will sound good but not offend their core supporters.  They’ve had plenty of practice.  References to fine words buttering no parsnips date back to at least 1634.

To identify the underlying causes of ecological distress one must first strip away mis-characterisations (it’s just a natural cycle) and finger pointing or ‘othering’ (it’s all their fault) and vested interests that stand in the way of progress.  It’s time then to critically review where leaders think they are leading.

Under Ed Davey the Libdems don’t just have a plan – we have a Green Recovery Plan but is that enough to get to the heart of the issues?  Given the scale of the challenge, are the plan’s elements sufficient?  Will many millions of small initiatives be practical and effective, or are major policy reforms required?

  • Save British Countryside
  • Green Every Home
  • Clean Air for Kids
  • Transport revolution
  • Energy Switch

Looking at the details behind these headlines there is much to applaud – and nothing to cause offence.  But will these elements be enough to arrest the current levels of our planet abuse?

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Ecocidal thoughts

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Ecocide, unlike Geocide, has yet to be embedded in international law.

Ecocide, as envisaged, would perhaps be reserved for extreme forms of our everyday Planet Abuse and directed at corporates and government leaders whose policies wreak so much damage.  Even so, the chances of such condemnation becoming law are minimal – and the chances of it acting as any deterrent, even less.  Like so much else in the hot air of climate debating circles, the notion of Ecocide is as purely symbolic as national flag waving or political greenwashing.

On the other hand, everyday Planet Abuse is more easily understood by individual citizens and communities.  For sure, there are challenges in tracking useful metrics: many places and people will see different priorities, and we are still a very long way from the general taboos that progressive societies try to muster for, say, Domestic or Racial Abuse.

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Pupil Premium at risk

The Pupil Premium is a system designed to invest more in areas where there is greatest need.  At a time when Covid has exposed the growing extent of child poverty, the logic of Pupil Premium means that greater investment in teaching must be made to support their needs – unless, apparently, the Department for Education changes the rules.

Just when the eligibility for free school meals (the metric used to calculate the Pupil Premium) is increasing (up by more than 100,000), the Department for Learning to Save Money has decided to calculate the schools budget from data before the recent upsurge.

Naturally, the Department for Depriving the Deprived, objects to this dismal characterisation.  The Children’s Minister, Vicky Ford, says the change “won’t make a huge difference” – which begs the question – why have they done it?  The Department for Hiding their Homework were asked to show their working, but refused to release it, claiming it “could harm the department’s reputation in regard to the accuracy and credibility of the statistical information it produces”.

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Climate Change: We must not discourage young people

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When the Southampton Daily Echo ran a story recently featuring the likely sea-rise impact on Southampton, it unleashed a torrent of outraged climate change denial. Climate Central’s data was viewed as preposterous, extremely unlikely and unwarranted fearmongering. Barely 20% of respondents agreed with the report.

That reaction – the refusal to countenance the full impact of the way we live now – is perfectly understandable. There are not many things these days as trusted as bricks and mortar…as safe as houses. Unfortunately, that trust flies in the face of science. While countries are firmly in the grip of an addiction to never-ending growth, it is difficult to face up to the consequences of damage to our planet.

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