It is quite staggering that anyone in modern day politics could seem more out of touch than George Osborne. However, a member of his own family, albeit only through marriage, has given it a good go today.
Lord Howell informed the House of Lords that fracking should take place in ‘desolate areas’ of the north-east offending a whole region and winning himself the title of Champion of the NIMBYs, ripping the crown from Griff Rhys Jones’ grasp. Lord Howell’s comments immediately caused a stir within the Lords itself and MPs on both sides of the house condemned his comments with James Wharton Tory MP for Stockton South saying that Lord Howell’s description was the north-east was “foolish and ill-informed”.
It is hard to believe that Lord Howell has ventured much further north than Oxford and it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if he visualises the north as having thirteen member families, using the same tin bath, drinking cups of Bovril and all sounding like Geoffrey Boycott. Indeed, listening to Sir Geoffrey and his stick of rhubarb on TMS is probably the closest Lord Howell gets to meeting a northerner.
It amazes me that politicians like Lord Howell still exist; so out of touch, so far removed from reality and normal life. Then I look at the Tory front bench and remember that people like Lord Howell are not an exception to the rule but are commonplace. David Cameron’s superficial modernisation of the Conservative Party looks entirely flawed almost each and every single time they open their mouths. The spew that came out of Lord Howell’s mouth today is probably not the worst idea to have been dreamt up by this mob but it is up there with the most offensive rivalling IDS (sale on everyday) for stupidity and ignorance.
In any case I have reservations about fracking myself; the huge amount of water that is necessary for fracking causes environmental concerns as does the potential for contamination of the local groundwater supply. This is notwithstanding the tremors that can be created using this method. Whilst it is true that these are relatively mild tremors it should be noted that most fracking has, up to now, been conducted in wide, open spaces in the U.S. A moderately sized earthquake may not have a wide impact there but in this densely populated country it could be catastrophic. I simply do not think we should be conducting an experiment when the potential consequences are essentially unknown and when there are other alternatives to be explored.
The present Government’s pursuit of fracking is also a further example of the completely mangled attitude towards climate change and Britain’s long term energy future. Fracking is clearly not the the long term solution to our energy needs; it prolongs our dependence on fossil fuels and will continue to add to carbon emissions. Current Government policy has been hell bent on destroying the renewable industry, an industry that could thrive and provide thousands of jobs to this country if it wasn’t being chocked off before even getting off the ground. It is no coincidence that the countries that have continued to do well during the global economic downturn are those countries which, decades ago, embraced a renewable future.
Anyway, back to Lord Howell and the ‘desolate’ north-east. If Lord Howell is so keen on fracking perhaps he should conduct some exploratory experiments in his own back garden (which I imagine covers a similar sized area of the entire north-east region). Besides, the north-east is not ‘desolate’; it is beautiful as has been shown by the pictures that have flooded Twitter this afternoon. Philip Maughan published the excellent ‘the top 10 most desolate places in the north-east’ for the New Statesman showing the complete desolation and bleakness of the place. My favourite however remains a picture sent to me by Sam Andrews, my friend from the north-east. It shows that the north-east is not ‘desolate’ but a stunning part of the world. Lord Howell would do well to go and have a look.