Wednesday, 15 April 2015

TV Debate

I watched the TV debate as a potential swing voter. I am currently leaning towards voting Labour but the party’s proposed policies are a lot less radical than my own views. I feel a lot of sympathy for the Greens, who are genuinely passionate about radical change to our society. I watched the debates wanting to be convinced by Ed Miliband, but strangely found Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru and Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP more convincing.

Wood passionately defended the NHS in a section where she talked about how it had begun in Wales and needed to be funded by general taxation - something I very much believe in. Despite Miliband's best attempts to gain ground on the NHS, he failed to sound as passionate about the institution as Wood did. Wood also mentioned the skill gap which immigration fills, particular in the NHS, when the main party leaders were falling over themselves trying to appeal to the slightly xenophobic middle-Englander, something I found especially repugnant.

Wood received the first applause of the evening when she stood up to Nigel Farage’s scapegoating of immigrants and scaremongering over HIV. I cheered when she told Farage that "he should be ashamed of himself" whilst defending immigration and the role immigrants play in society. I wanted Miliband to stand up to the embodiment of self-entitled English bigotry, but all he managed were a few hesitant points about peoples’ concerns, which did nothing to win me over and nothing to convince swing voters that Labour is "tough on immigration". The fact that Labour want to appear tough on immigration disappointments me, they should not be allowing the right to dominate this issue so much as it only benefits the Conservatives and UKIP, and Labour will never be viewed as credible on this issue.

Sturgeon also voiced her opposition to austerity and talked about the need to raise government spending to invest and create jobs. I was disappointed that Miliband is determined to emphasise that a Labour government would cut more from the budget, during a time when unemployment is still high, there is underinvestment in infrastructure, and inequality is very significant. Five years of Tory austerity has made us a harsher, meaner, less equal, more money focused society, governed by small-minded bean counters who would propagate suffering if it was cost effective.

We have come through the first recession in history where the rich have got richer and the poor have got poorer. The vast accumulation of wealth and opportunity by a small fraction of society threatens the re-emergence of the class system and has broken the mantra that hard work is rewarded; this concept remains only as a political sound-bite. The Labour Party should be whole-heartedly opposed to this, however it fell to Sturgeon to defend the role of government spending.

We can fight inequality and self-interest through the government spending Sturgeon defended, through the NHS, through investing in homes, through welfare spending. Miliband appears to prefer a holding pattern above the point where the Victorian social structure would return, instead of defending the role of government. This is presumably so that a future Tory government can push us over the edge. I was disappointed by the Labour leader, but encouraged by the SNP leader’s arguments.

Sturgeon stood up to Cameron's plans for future welfare cuts. A Labour leader I could be proud of would have stood up to Cameron's plans to balance the nation's books on the back of the poorest whilst cutting taxes for the rich, but he did not. Most likely out of fear of offending the above mentioned small minded bean counters who will never think Labour are credible economically anyway. Labour do best electorally when they capture a spirit of optimism about the future, not trepidation.

I do not seem to be along in thinking that Sturgeon did well that night, she topped 3 out of 4 snap polls asking who had won the debate, one third of Labour and Lib Dem voters support Sturgeon and the most Googled phrase after the debate was whether a non-resident of Scotland can vote SNP. Clearly a significant section of the public, even the English public, agree with Sturgeon’s arguments, so why is Labour so keen to be out flanked on the left by Plaid and the SNP? Is it to gain the vote of the cynical self-interested centrist? I would prefer a Labour Party that appeals to our aspirations (as the SNP does and has Labour did when it won big in the past) rather than a Labour party that appeals to cynical self-interest. I am disappointed by how uninspiring Miliband's arguments are and those of Wood and Sturgeon pleasantly surprised me.

Miliband did have some good moments during the debate. I agree with his dismissal of trickle-down economics, which has only succeeded in creating one of the most unequal societies in history – even if he demonstrated little belief in an alternative. I also agreed with Miliband when he talked about the pressures on private renters and the exploitation of immigrants. These were good moments when he showed some genuine compassion.

Miliband was certainly not the biggest loser of the last debate. That was Farage who at best came across as a broken record and at worst as a dripping xenophobic imbecile, which will no doubt please his core demographic but is unlikely to sway anyone else. Miliband did well but failed to inspire me the way that Wood and Sturgeon did. I want a Labour leader who leads on left wing issues and inspires people to vote for them with a positive vision of a fairer, more equal future. I saw this from Wood and Sturgeon; I did not see this from Miliband.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Green Surge

The Green Party has been in the news, but this time it isn’t because they had a surge in membership or been invited to the leaders’ debates, it is because their policies were actually being discussed. On LBC they had a chance to put their housing policy directly to voters and the outcome was not good. Faced with some simple questions on financing their leader Natalie Bennett completely collapsed. The phrase train wreck does not begin to cover how badly it went - you can hear the interview and read the transcript here.

The story quickly became about how bad her performance was, which is a shame as we do urgently need more council homes to alleviate pressure on the private housing market, and no other party has seriously suggesting tackling the problem. Bennett also made a good point about how much of the housing benefit bill ends up in the pockets of private landlords, something I have been pointing out for years. The lack of a living wage means that benefits are used to subsidise both private landlords and the low wage offered by employers. If you are concerned about the cost of housing benefits, then look at who it really goes to: buy-to-let landlords, and not low income workers.

Increasing the stock of council housing, coupled with other Green policies like a living wage, would reduce the housing benefit bill, move vulnerable people out of the private rented sector, increase standards of living for the lowest earners, reduce inflationary pressure on rents in the private housing market and provide more home security for those in need.

All of these benefits, which would help the Greens electorally, were overlooked because the story became about Bennett’s performance. The Greens do need to get better at pitching themselves, or else they will not be able to expand their electoral support. The fact that their leader fell completely apart during an interview that was not particularly difficult or pressing is not encouraging this close to the election. It looked like they were not expecting their policies to come under the same level of scrutiny that every other party gets.

Those posters asking "the boys" what they are afraid of look childishly overconfident now, especially as one of the “boys” Bennett will be up against is Nicola Sturgeon who is a very good debater and will make short work on Bennett if she cannot answer simple questions about figures without tripping over her own feet. That's without taking into account Farage's bolshie style of public oratory, Cameron and Clegg who have done this before and Miliband who has been able to held his own against Cameron during PMQs. The Greens could end up looking like amateurs playing in the professional party's league.

This home spun, ordinary-people, lack of professionalism is part of the draw of the Greens - up until the point when it stops them appealing to ordinary people who have little tolerance of politicians with a lack of media savvy– case in point, look at what happened to Gordon Brown five years ago.

This, and other, recent media gaffs are symptoms of a wider problem with the Green Party - and I write this as someone who is tempted to vote Green in the general election. The Greens appeared to have assumed that everyone would support their policies if they knew what they were. However this is because there policies have had little scrutiny outside the ranks of their supporters or people who are likely to vote for them. Appealing to a wide cross section of the general public is more difficult, and does not necessarily require changing of policies but it does involve expressing them properly.

Expressing them properly does not mean becoming the slick PR machine that the Tories are or raising the huge ground swell of volunteers that Labour have, it means framing their policies as the answers to the questions voters are asking and, where possible, changing the national debate to questions to which the Green Party are the answer. UKIP, remember, have only become relevant by making sure every question on every issue can be answered with ‘Europe’, ‘immigration’ or ‘political correctness’ – whatever you think about their worldview, they’re good at it, and they’ve been successful in getting these issues onto the agenda, largely against the wishes of the established parties.

It also means having a consistent message on policy areas such as the economy, health, housing, etc. Which are areas where it is possible to make gains from Labour among left learning people. They are doing some of this already, which is why left learning people like myself are inclined to vote for them, but they need to be better at it.

They also have to phrase their policies in a way which voters can clearly understand what the party as a whole stands for. A recent example, pointed out to me, is that the Greens want to legalise membership of groups like IS (who want to destroy our society) but will make criminals of small business owners who do not want women to breast feed on their premises. I think these are both good policies but when put together they seem very contradictory and are likely to alienate people who would otherwise support the Greens.

As a country we need the Greens to do well, they are the only party that is challenging the status quo - with the possible exception of the SNP. From safe guarding the environment, to protecting the NHS, to ending the scapegoating of those on benefits and immigrants, there are many reasons to support the Green Party, but the Greens themselves need to start acting more professionally or this Green Surge will not translate into electoral results.

The main piece of advice I would give to the Greens are to stop focusing on the details like the minutia of how policies will be funded and leave that the other grey suited politicians fighting it out to be accountant-in-chief. By focusing on the cost of policies the Greens are playing the other party’s game, a game they cannot win. A sustainable future and a fairer society is not something which can be subjected to cost benefit analysis.

To appeal to voters the Greens need a simple and consistent narrative of hope and change. They need to be the breath of fresh air that will clear away the old establishment and vested interesting and usher in a fairer, cleaner, greener future. They need a message of hope and change and not one of small-minded bean counting. This will engage people who want change and believe that the Greens can deliver it.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

It's the economy stupid

Economic performance makes or breaks a re-election campaign. In the absence of a scandal (and sometimes in spite of one) strong economic performance will guarantee a government’s re-election. The poor economic situation allowed Bill Clinton to beat incumbent George H. W. Bush in 1992, and then 4 years later the buoyant economic circumstances allowed Clinton to overcome the Monica Lewinski scandal to be re-elected. Economic performance allowed Blair to win three elections and Brown to win zero. Now with a general election almost upon us, the economy is centre stage again.

Economic "leadership" is seen as a winning trait in a perspective Prime minister and with inequality up, wages down, homes too expensive for most people to afford, trouble in the Euro-zone and another financial crash on the horizon there has never been more need for economic leadership.

However, economic leadership is not what we are being offered. Cameron offers more of the same from a future Tory government, more protection for big business, more cuts to public services, more blaming of the poor for all our economic problems. I doubt a future Tory government will raise wages, living standards or reduce inequality. This is mainly because they refuse to legislate to achieve these aims; Cameron prefers to ask business leaders nicely to do these things, so that they can easily ignore their social responsibilities.

Defining economic success is half of the election battle. Cameron would prefer it to be economic growth figures, as GDP is up and the economy is larger now than it was before the crash. Labour are viewed as weak on growth, mainly as a hangover from the 2010 general election, when Cameron was able to blame complex global macro-economic problems on the simple fact that Labour overspent. Labour would prefer economic success to be defined as growth in wages and living standards, which have remained flat since the Tories took office.

In terms of policy, Labour offer some economic leadership. Miliband's plan is to promote responsible capitalism, which is neo-liberalism with government intervention to prevent the worst inequalities and abuses. However, this is not leadership or putting forward an alternative to the dominant economic narrative of neo-liberalism. This is a slightly different variant on the narrative Thatcher established in the 1980s and has essentially remained unchallenged since.

Labour's plan is to exploit peoples’ fear. Fear that things will get worse, fear that wages will not rise, fear that ordinary people will not feel the recovery, fear that your children will be worse off than you are. This is a bad move as Labour achieved large landslides when they captured a spirit of optimism. This was the case in 1945 with the welfare state, in 1966 with the “white heat of technology” and in 1997 with New Labour. Appealing to our aspirations works better for Labour, not our fears.

Politicians from the main parties are appealing to our fears instead of our aspirations; this has led to voters being frightened about the future and unsure who offers hope. UKIP aims to exploit voters’ fear that immigration and the EU will drag our economy under, Lib Dems that the two main parties will unleash widespread suffering without them as a coalition partner, Greens that our economy will be wrecked by environmental disasters, the SNP that a collapsing English economy will sink Scotland as well.

If all economic indicators were improving then the government would be doing better in opinion polls. Let us not forgot that the Tories led us into a double-dip, almost triple-dip, recession. The economy is growing but people who are not already very wealthy are not feeling better off, this is a failure of economic policy.

If Labour were offering an alternative narrative then they would be doing better in the polls as well. By playing along to the Tory's narrative of austerity, instead of offering one of their own, they are playing a losing game. 2010 was not long ago and fighting the debates from that election again will not bring about a Labour victory. The lack of a counter narrative is playing into the hands of the Tories.

No one offers any vision or leadership on the economy, only fear. Economic fear has gripped us as a nation despite the return of growth. We are frightened about unemployment, uncertainty, anti-business agendas, rabid capitalism, wages, inflation, deflation, the cost of the NHS, the lack of an NHS, the cost of immigration, too many pensioners, house prices falling, houses being too expensive, anti-EU rhetoric, pro-EU rhetoric and our shadows.

The climate of fear and uncertainty that surrounds our economic future is a product of the lack of leadership from politicians on the economy. Politician of all stripes would rather let the market and unaccountable large companies control our economic future, and the result has been inequality, economic instability and a public who worries that control of the economy is out of their hands. This has led to a view that ordinary's people's concerns are not taken into account when economic decisions are made and now most people are frightened about their future.

In the 1970s economic uncertainty, fear about the future and belief that the economy was out of our control led to strong leadership from Margret Thatcher and a radical new vision for our economy. Now those views have been allowed to run to their logical conclusion and people are concerned about the state of the economy. Again we need bold leadership from politicians and a new economic narrative to change direction and regain people's faith in the economy and their own futures.

We need a new economic narrative to replace the neo-liberal mantra, which has led us to this place of fear and confusion. We need a narrative that makes us optimistic about our future and feel in control our own economic wellbeing, not at the whim of free-market forces or governments that looks after the financial futures of large companies instead of its own citizens.

The fact that both main parties have the same economic narrative is the reason for the political deadlock. As the economy is the most important issue to most voters, presenting a new popular economic narrative would be a huge vote winner for a party that did so. It was an adviser of Clinton's who coined the phrase "it's the economy, stupid" to describe how election campaigns turn on this issue. Both main parties should bear this in mind when they are considering repeating the tired economic clich├ęs voters are disillusioned with, or showing some leadership on this issue and presenting a new narrative.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The case for voting Green

Earlier this week I posted the case, from a left-wing point of view, for voting Labour in this year’s general election. Until recently I only considered the possibility of voting Labour. I have been a Labour Party member for over ten years and have campaigned for them on two separate occasions. However I have been completely underwhelmed by Miliband's leadership despite voting for him to be party leader, because I believed he was the most left-wing candidate on the ballot.

It is not his lack of charisma or inability to eat a bacon sandwich which puts me off voting Labour. It’s the party’s complete failure at being actually left-wing. Despite the fact that the right-wing press will paint Miliband as a socialist, he still cannot find it in himself to put forward a genuine alternative to the Tories’ neo-liberalism and austerity. However, recently the Green Party has been doing a pretty good job of putting forward this alternative, and I am considering voting for them. So on that note:

The case for voting Green:

I am one of a growing number of people who believe we need radical change to our society to avoid sleepwalking into a resurgent class system and growing civil unrest. The wealth of the rich is exploding compared to the wealth of everyone else. Government austerity is eroding the welfare state and destroying the services the poorest rely on. The great social levellers - free universal healthcare, free education, a minimum standard of housing - are being removed. The poor are being blamed for being poor and the disabled are blamed for being disabled. Through private schools and unpaid internships, society is gamed for the children of the rich and, if this goes unchecked, we will return to a class based society where your prospects in life are determined by your birth. The left needs to send a powerful signal that we want to change society, and this signal is voting Green.

I support their policy on a minimum national income to fight poverty, as well as their energy and tuition fees polices. I also strongly support not renewing Trident. In terms of radical changes to our society, I believe the Greens are right to propose cutting back the army, partly to stop us getting involved in another disastrous war in the Middle East. Changing the focus in employment to work that matters/is of social benefit would not only be good for the environment, but would also help to end the money and status obsession which is slowing killing everything that is good about our society.

From a socialist point of view they plan to tax the rich and help the poor, which will lead to an end of the culture of blaming the poor for being poor and then punishing them with austerity. Speaking of which, the Greens are the only party with a clear opposition to neo-liberalism and austerity. These policies created our economic problems and then pushed the burden of solving them onto the poorest members of society. On top of all this, a vote for the Greens would be a push back against the dominant right-wing narratives on immigration and benefits.

The Greens are the only party I trust on the environment. Labour are too pragmatic to do something as idealistic as protecting the natural world. They are also the only party I trust to be sensible on crime and drugs. They are the only party I trust to look at the causes of crime and not simply rely on harsher sentences. The drugs reforms that the Greens suggest seem common sense to me, and are supported by the medical community - at least in terms of marijuana.

Every other party is so terrified of right-wing hysteria that they refuse even to concede the point. The continual cycle of successive governments burying their own drug reports which refuse to tow the right-wing line shows how reluctant they are to consider any form of liberalisation. Instead, the drug problem gets worse and the right-wing pundits blow more steam out of their ears and jump up and down on their hats whenever liberalisation is suggested.

The drugs issue shows how timid the mainstream parties are and how little changes regardless of which one is in power. It is this narrowing of debate which has contributed to the climate of cynicism that surrounds politics. By voting Green we can counter this cynicism with a real alternative to the big three - an alternative which is not UKIP, as UKIP is just more cynicism but of a different kind. Voting Green will show politicians that we do want something different from the narrow range of policies that are presented to us.

Do you think that a future Labour government will tax the rich and ban zero hour contracts? I do not think they will, but they might do in a coalition with the Greens, which is another great reason to vote for them.

The main reason not to vote Green is also one of the main reasons to vote Green, which is their energy policy. Their total opposition to nuclear power is unfounded. France is invested heavily in nuclear power and has one of the lowest levels of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe as well as some of the cheapest electricity. As much as I love wind farms, and hate how the landed Tories moan about them, the technology is not ready for Britain to become fully dependant upon them in the short term. Nuclear power must be used as in the medium term as we wean ourselves off non-renewables. A Green/Labour coalition would probably have the best combination of optimism and realism on energy policy.

There is also the Green's support for alternative medicine, which has no place within the NHS. However, aside from these few differences, I am struggling to find proposed Green Party policies that I disagree with. My only concern is that it is easy for a fridge party to promise a lot of radical policies, but with no experience of national government, I am worried about how much of this they will deliver. After being seduced by the Lib Dems in 2010, I am weary about a seemingly left-wing alternative that turns out to be a Tory footstool.

Despite this I strongly believe you should vote for the policies which best represent your vision of what you want the country to be. Worry about the bean counting and paperwork later. If were too preoccupied with these things then we would not have a welfare state - and it is this attitude which is partly responsible for the eroding of the welfare state.

I, like a lot of radical lefties, think that our society needs real change to advert economic and social disaster. Change which cannot be offered by the Labour Party. The only way send a signal to politicians that we want radical change to our society is to vote for the only party which is offering radical change, which is the Green Party.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The case for voting Labour

The first wave of our general election coverage tackles the most fundamental election question: who should I vote for? It will be no surprise to our readers that voting Tory or UKIP is out of the question, and I feel so let down by the Lib Dems that they are no longer an option either. However, the growing Labour vs Green debate is very interesting so I thought I would start the coverage by evaluating these parties.

Full disclosure: I am a Labour Party member, generally vote Labour in most elections, and I have campaigned for Labour in the past. However, being on the left of the party, I am tempted to vote Green. One of my reasons for writing these posts is to figure out for myself how I want to vote in May. So without further ado:

The case for voting Labour:

Under Miliband, Labour has been more radical than it has been in a long time. Some the policies of market intervention he is putting forward would have been unthinkable under Blair or Brown. There’s lots of genuinely left-wing policies to like in Labour's current offering and I feel we should encourage the Labour Party while it is being radical by voting for it. If we do not, and Labour is defeated, then we will get ‘Blue Labour’ and more towing the centralist line on spending, on immigration, on welfare. If Labour puts forward left-wing policies and lefties do not vote for them then we can hardly complain when Labour does not put forward left wing policies in the future.

Miliband may lack charisma but he does have a vision for what Britain should be like, backed up by theory and experience of government. He believes that now is a time for political change, when the status quo can alter, as in 1945 or 1979. His ideas of responsible capitalism, and government intervention in the market to prevent the worst inequalities and protect the poorest people, would have been considered dangerously radical under Blair.

In terms of policies I support there is the reintroduction of the 50p income tax bracket, a mansion tax with the funding to support the NHS, the roll-back of NHS privatization and protecting our EU membership. On top of that there is a mooted young peoples’ manifesto, to encourage young, disenfranchised voters to participate in politics as well as a possible University tuition fee reduction and ending charity status for private schools.

Above all, there is the NHS. Labour will protect the NHS and prevent another top down reorganisation. Labour will also protect the NHS from alternative medicine, which is supported by the Green party. On the economy, a Labour government will protect economic growth, rising living standards and move some wealth from the top of society to the bottom.

Labour is proposing to cut £7bn from the budget, which is something I am opposed to. However it would be simplistic to say this policy is no different from the Tories who plan to cut 4 times this figure. Under Labour the government can continue to function, under the Tories it will be changed forever. It is also worth pointing out that Labour will protect local council budgets which the Tories will decimate if re-elected.

The Labour party is different to all the other political parties in that since it began it has always been a confederation of different groups and different options. The Labour party is best adapted to accommodating the differences on the left and balance the competing demands of environmentalists, socialists, trade unionists and liberals. There are a lot of key debates about what the left should look like in the 21st Century and it is best that these debates take place within the Labour party and not between different parties. Partly because the Labour party is best set up to balance these different views within one cohesive movement, but also so as not to split the left wing vote, which is what the Tories want. I am very concerned about the future if too many lefties vote Bennett and get Cameron, or worse get Farage.

The case against voting for the Labour Party is that they are so rubbish at being left wing in practice. Their leadership lack any passion for left-wing views or values. The idea that the Labour Party should be calling out businesses which run zero hour contracts or politicians endlessly blaming the poor for our economic problems is completely alien to the party's leadership. They seem to be terrified of being accused of being of actually left-wing.

The sad thing is that the right-wing press will accuse Miliband of being a dangerous Communist no matter what he does, so why does he not take this opportunity to he even a little bit socialist? The Labour Party is always bowing to the right's advances on immigration, on benefits, on the EU, and never takes the initiative. The more they do this the more they let the right define these issues and thus take the electoral advantage.

The Labour Party has failed to set out an alternative to austerity and Neo-liberalism. Their case for voting for them is that they will do the same as the Tories but be a little nicer and little bit less harsh on the poor. The subtext of this is that a Labour government will still be nasty and still push most of the burden of society's problems onto the poor. The alternative would be to put out a real ideological alternative to austerity and neo-liberalism and, as the Labour Party has ceded any debate on these issues to the right, this will not happen. I agree with the political ideology of Miliband, but it is the beginning of an alternative to the neo-liberal hegemony and not an alternative in itself. The Labour Party is going in the right direction but has not gone far enough.

The main point against voting Labour is that they are completely uninspiring. They are not offering alternative views on the current debates and are still wrestling with the Tories over a political centre of dullards and bean counters. This will not inspire popular support and contributes to the climate of cynicism and apathy that dominates the electorate.

If we are going to get more of the same from the next government then I would prefer it to be Labour's slightly nicer and slightly more equal more of the same. However I want a real alternative to the political narrative laid out by the right. More of the same will not end this culture of political cynicism, only a real alternative to the status quo will do. A radical shake up will come at some point, I just hope it is from within the Labour party.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

General Election Coverage

It is that time again, a general election. A time when the parties throw mud at each other, try to influence the debates onto subjects they poll better on and generally bicker while trying to look majestic, dynamic or forward thinking. It is one of those times when we all end up thinking: "Wouldn't it be easier if we all lived in a Soviet style one-party system?" No? Well maybe that is just me.

In truth, I love a general election, it is a time to debate our future and review our past. A time to think about the kind of society we want to live in and what we want to escape from.

This general election promises to be more interesting than any since 1992 because the outcome is so uncertain. Labour/Lib Dem coalition, Tory/Lib Dem, Labour/SNP, Labour/SNP/Green (hopefully), Tory/UKIP (heaven forbid), any of these outcomes is possible. The polls are close and both major parties are struggling to get thirty-five percent. Smaller parties are surging and being talked about in a way they have never been before - i.e. not as a wasted vote. By mid-May, the make up and priorities of the government could be radically different from what it is now. It is all very exciting.

In the run up to the election, we will be providing our own unique coverage. It will be similar to what you have read before, fiercely left-wing, but entirely focused on the election. Polls, leader debates, manifestos, we will be covering it. Watch here for future developments. It promises to be interesting.


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The nuclear option: no one wants Fukushima in their back yard

Energy policy, like many other political issues, divides the left. Some left-wingers are pro-nuclear energy and point to countries like France which produces three quarters of its energy from nuclear power. It is a convincing argument as France has one of lowest greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and the lowest energy prices. Opponents to nuclear energy point out that uranium is still a finite resource, like coal. They also point towards nuclear power’s history of catastrophes from Chernobyl to Three Mile Island.

Most political parties agree that there are problems with the energy policy of the past. Coal, oil and gas are rising in price about as fast as our collective understanding of the damage they do to the environment. Oil and gas also increase our reliance on countries we would rather not be dependent upon. When choosing supplies, we have the politically unstable and violent Middle East or the stable and violent Russian Federation. Politicians of every banner can see the value in disengaging from both of these oil and gas rich regions.

We all agree there is a problem, but disagree on the solution. The current Tory government is enamoured with fracking, which is hardly a solution at all as it is still non-renewable energy, environmentally damaging and likely to produce earthquakes – although these are physical earthquakes unlike the political ones going on in the Middle East. The main reason for the Tories support of fracking is so that David Cameron can be pictured in a hard hat in front of a giant machine and appearing to be accomplishing something tangible for once. It also a cynical attempt to recapture the idea that the Tories are the party of the entrepreneur, an opinion which a decade of New Labour followed by a Tory government made up of, and run for, the benefit of the landed gentry has eroded. Personally, I do not see how fracking would help with this. Giant energy companies have little to do with aspirational working class people who want to improve their social and economic standing through setting up a business.

What giant energy companies certainly are not is socialist. They are the antithesis of everything Marxists of today and yesterday believe in. The Tory commitment to them is a continuation of the policy of doing nothing and hoping that the free market can sort this problem out. While the Tory government is waiting for Ayn Rand to solve problems of energy policy, the water levels are rising in poor countries. But we cannot seriously expect Tories to worry about that.

Meanwhile the left is failing to provide any seriously leadership on this issue due to the above mentioned divisions. The Green movement, which is against nuclear power and prefers a 100% renewable approach, point to countries like Germany which are migrating away from nuclear in favour of renewable energy. They also point to recent news that wind generated more electricity than nuclear power on the 21st of October (however the circumstances of this were dubious if you read into it in more detail)

As noble as this goal of renewable energy is, most people agree that this is a long term goal and something else would be needed to fill the gap while technology catches up to our ambitions. The same can be said of nuclear fusion power, or deep vent geothermal power, which have been perpetually ten years away since the 1970s.

The Greens are currently experiencing their own internal division between the ‘dark green’, ‘light green’ and ‘bright green’ environmentalists. The first of these has more in common with the socialists the Labour party are doing their best to ignore in that they believe that climate change is a consequence of our capitalist system and materialist culture. The light greens are apolitical or anti-political, and believe that changing our behaviour is the solution. Their plan is that we can save the world one community recycling centre at a time. Finally the bright green environmentalists rely on technological change to stop the rising tides; it this ideology which sits most comfortably with capitalism and was endorsed by a younger, more optimistic David Cameron before he was fully claimed by regressive little England Toryism.

Like the rest of the left I am divided on this issue myself. As much as I might agree with the dark green environmentalists that capitalism is the problem, I have no desire to live in a yurt in the New Forest. My socialism has as much to do with the liberating power of technology as it does with putting oil executives in the stocks. Harold Wilson’s “white heat of technology” will have a role to play in the saving of humanity, even if it is partly responsible for this mess in the first place. As for light green environmentalism, I am suspicious of anyone who believes that the problems of the world can be solved by a very insistent leafleting campaign and a few more allotments. The bright green environmentalists do offer the attractive prospect of believing the problem is completely out of my hands, but between my emotional mistrust of capitalism and the fact that most of the technology the bright greens rely on is still a few years away means I cannot endorse this ideology.

It is hard to know what you believe when no view occupies the moral high ground or is overwhelmingly popular. This is one of those tricky situations where it is necessary to have an opinion and back it up with evidence.

The current vogue for localism has some baring on this debate. The light greens may believe that the best way to tackle environmental issues is at the local level, this is not the case for power generation. This is one policy area that needs to be dealt with by central government - just like the creation of the national grid itself back in the 1920s. Any energy solution should be planned for long term benefit, which means we need a central government solution to this problem.

It may not be inspirational or transformative, but I find myself coming back to the advantages of nuclear power and France’s low carbon footprint and cheap energy. It is one of those unusual solutions which would benefit the poor and private businesses. Investment in nuclear will also create jobs, well-paying secure jobs, something which there is a definite shortage of. Wind and tide certainly have its place in this mix, so will our existing coal, gas and oil infrastructure as it is phased out. This would move us away from fossil fuels and our reliance on the Middle East and Russia.

However it does leave the tricky issues of where do we build these nuclear power stations. No one wants Fukushima going on in their back yard. No one wants a fracking induced earthquake in their backyard either, which will happen if we do not adopt what I am hesitant to call “the nuclear option”. This problem goes beyond keeping the lights on now - demand for electricity will increase if we are to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. If electric cars take off then we will need to rapidly increase our electricity production capacity as well.

The left need to get behind government backed nuclear power. The Tory’s free market solution may not solve the problem in time. If I was trapped in a room with rising water, I would find little comfort in the fact that I had created a powerful economic incentive to be saved. The Green movement has the right intentions but their sweeping changes to human nature or technological revolution may not arrive in time. For now, nuclear is our best choice for a divided left, hopefully this is something we can agree on.