Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A snake oil election

Speaking last month, energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband said that the environment and climate change could emerge as a "top three" issue during the campaign as each party seeks to tout its green credentials.

However, he predicted that businesses and the electorate would have to display higher levels of interest in the low carbon economy if the leading parties are to make it a central feature of their campaigning.

Now we are told by The Guardian that Green business leaders are increasingly sceptical that this will be the case and are predicting that "low carbon policies" will slip down the agenda as politicians choose to focus on the economy.

From a survey in The Sun yesterday (pictured), that is exactly what seems to be happening. "Green issues" rank a lowly ninth in the list of voters' concerns, and that portmanteau term covers a whole range of issues, not just global warming – including energy, one presumes.

But then, Geoffrey Lean put his finger on it, noting that there was nothing to choose between the policies of the three main parties. Any differences are only in the degree to which they are prepared to wreck the economy in pursuit of the global warming obsession.

Thus, as with "Europe", which scores eleventh (of twelve) on the list of concerns, the "big three" are going to adopt their usual tactic of simply not talking about policies where there is a large degree of consensus. By such means, they hope to conceal from the electorate how very similar are all three parties.

What is profoundly irritating though is how the "economy" scores so highly in voters' concerns, without any recognition that "green issues" have a major impact on our economy, as indeed does "Europe", more so if the Greek economy goes belly up.

All of this, of course, simply reinforces Heffer's point, that the election contest is completely artificial, dominated by politicians seeking to impose their visions of what is important on an unwilling and sceptical electorate, instead of addressing the issues that really matter.

Under the weight of media coverage, many people will be sucked into this maw, to the extent that they will buy – albeit temporarily – one or other of the agendas on sale. It takes iron discipline to hold on to the conviction that none of them are real.

The snake oil salesmen have been let loose but, just because their messages are now louder, more strident and more urgent, shouldn't make them any more convincing than they were last week. This is still a snake oil election.