Opinion: What do we think about ‘comrade Digby’?

When Gordon Brown became prime minister, we were briefed that he was suspect on the environment. He did not have a good record as the chancellor, and we were going to attack him on that.

So why would this be?

Labour ministers often start with good intentions on the environment, but fail to deliver. Their failure is down to how strong the anti-green movement is. Popular elements of the anti-green movement include the pro-car movement, which contains the likes of Jeremy Clarkson; the anti-tax movement (recently the Taxpayers Alliance was complaining about the amount spent on informing the public about global warming); the Daily Mail/Telegraph/Express/Sun; and the NFU and the CBI.

To be fair, the record of the CBI is mixed. Recently it has become ‘green’, and of course we do rely on new technology to mitigate the human contribution to global warming. The CBI has something to gain.

But the CBI also lobbies for things we do not agree with, such as nuclear power, and an expansion of the road building program. Incidentally, I checked the CBI website and I could not find anything there about road building. However that is their record up until now.

So if we attack Gordon Brown for not being green, we should attack those who lobby the government to water down their green policies, namely the CBI, of which of course Digby Jones was, until last year, the Director General. Digby Jones was recently made a trade minister by Gordon Brown in his new government.

So why is it that it is only the Labour left that is attacking this appointment?

In fact I notice that one of our “senior MPs” claimed he was one of ours.

What is going on? Why are we so half-hearted, again?

* Geoffrey Payne is the secretary of Hackney Liberal Democrats.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Kevin O'Connor 23rd Jul '07 - 2:40pm


    I disagree with your assertion that opposing new nuclear power is in conflict to our green tax policies. You as for Pigouvian taxes and scrapping the CAP. these are both long standing Lib Dem policies and, since the Huhne has been the environment spokesperson, now at the forefront of out policy agenda.

    The policies are clearly indicative of a market approach to cutting out emissions by which we would punish all carbon output equally so that the market can choose where the savings are made.

    The problem with Nuclear Power altogether is that you cannot include it in a market system like this. You cannot account for all of its externalities within a power production market. Put simply, the costs of clean up of decommissioned power stations and the storage of spent nuclear fuel will not be included in the market costs of nuclear power production.

    If you were to genuinely say that a company planning to build a nuclear power station had to be liable for all costs pertaining to the plant, even after decommissioning, then they would run a mile. There is a reason why no nuclear power plant has ever been built with 100% private funding and management – the market would run a mile from this uncompetitive option.

  • Geoffrey Payne 23rd Jul '07 - 9:24pm

    The debate about energy and whether to include nuclear or not is hugely complex, lets have a debate about that on another thread.
    Whether you like it or not, the Liberal Democrats are determined to be the foremost green party in British politics and after the recent floods for good reason. Huhne has approvingly quoted the Stern report as identifying the process of global warming as a market failure. If you assume that to be correct, then the government has to step in and make a correction, because this is about our future survival on this planet and we cannot rely on market forces to correct what it caused to fail.
    In that context it is not surprising that Gordan Brown, being susceptible to lobbying from the anti-Green movement has been identified by our party as being weak on the environment. Yet one of the instigators of that weakness, namely “Comrade” Digby is now appointed by him as the trade minister in our government.
    And instead of condemning what has happened, our party seems to wish he joined us instead. What hypocracy!
    I am not impressed by Tristan’s point about various groups not being anti-green, and that they just have other priorities – as though we can pick and choose. Unfortunately the supermarket theory of economics does not permit us to choose what planet we live on. We only have this one. It is hardly worth comparing whether choosing not to be green due to lack of interest is better or worse than being anti-Green for the fun of it.

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