Friday, April 02, 2010

The politics of politics

Blogging – or, at least, writing this blog – involves a great deal of heart-searching, not least to avoid falling into the trap of pursuing personal obsessions to the detriment of objective coverage.

The question I must constantly address in selecting a topic is whether the subject matter is objectively important, or important just because I think it is.

In that context, readers may recall my post late last month where I argued that a secure supply of cheap energy underwrote the very fabric of our civilisation, and the economy, making it the most fundamental issue that any politician had to address.

Thus, it is of some comfort to see a letter to The Daily Telegraph from Miles Templeman, Director-General, Institute of Directors, who informs us of a survey of 1,800 business leaders last month.

Reflecting – and effectively vindicating – my own concern, the respondents identified "ensuring secure energy supplies" as the single most important issue facing the next government. Some 85 percent said that new nuclear power stations should be built in Britain.

Templeman goes on to say that political indecision, flaws in Britain's strategic planning system and the persistent threat of windfall taxes on the profits of energy companies have discouraged private investment in new capacity, and have left us dangerously exposed to power shortages over the next decade.

He concludes: "The next government must deal with this problem. If this results in a fast-track planning process and building lots of new nuclear power stations, so be it."

If we had grown-up politics, this would be a central issue in the coming general election. But, in the scheme of things, it is regarded as a technical, specialist concern, outside the run of mainstream politics. It is thus largely ignored by the political commentariat – a reflection of its lamentable superficiality.

It is not altogether untoward, therefore, to note the current focus of the Tories on their "big society" and then to point you to the comments of Gerald Warner, who is a tad dismissive of the idea.

The contrast, to me, points up the core ailment of contemporary politics. We have politicians sticking their noses in issues which are none of their business and where they can only do harm, while neglecting those issues where intelligent and timely intervention is essential.

It also points up another important aspect of our politics, namely that which politicians tell us is important (as a political issue) isn't necessarily so, while the issues they do ignore are not necessarily unimportant.

When, perhaps, we have the happy coincidence of politicians identifying and dealing with the really important issues, instead of what they think is important (to them), then perhaps we will have reverted to grown-up politics. In the meantime, I will continue to write about energy because, as a political issue, it really is important.