Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The environment - who cares?

Today some colleagues of mine were making fun of David Cameron's recent glacier-hugging exploits and casting doubt on his sincerity as an environmentalist. Their comments got me pondering this Cameron/environmental business and produced the following random thoughts.

First, nobody really cares that much about the environment. We all know it's important and most of us can carry out the necessary brainwork that leads to the conclusion that if we don't take care of it we're in the soup. But we are all content to consume and waste as much as we ever did, leaving lights on and the tv on stand-by, driving everywhere, buying packaged fruit and veg where loose is less wasteful and so on. And although recycling is now relatively widespread this is probably more due to the convenience of not having overflowing dustbins at home - and the relative ease now of recycling - than it is due to passionate concern for the environment. If recycling involved a 15 minute walk most people would stop doing it immediately. Nobody actually cares enough about the environment to make any proper effort to look after it.

Second, some evidence for my contention that people aren't overly bothered abuot their environment is contained in some second-hand information I received about a pre-election poll asking people which issues most concern them. The responses were:

1. Health care and hospitals.

2. Immigration and race relations.

3. Foreign affairs including international terrorism.

4. Education and schools.

5. Crime, or law and order.

See? We all know we should care about the environment but we actually don't that much. There will be good reasons for this but, regardless: environment does not feature.

Third, David Cameron's glacier-hugging was an act of gesture politics. Nothing wrong with that in itself but gesture politics are designed to convey a message or image about the person making the gesture and, as such, are not designed to improve the situation about which the gesture is being made. As a result of David Cameron's trip to that cold place he went to not one glacier will be saved, not one rain forest preserved and not a single ounce of carbon emission will be prevented. But he'll look like he cares and that he will take environmental issues seriously. Which he probably will. But it won't matter because we're all more worried about health and crime and education and so on.

Fourth - and to aswer the question, 'if nobody cares about the environment why does Mr Cameron do what he's doing?' - Mr Cameron's recent environmental posturings are part of a wider, quite sensible strategy - if looked at from any angle other than policy. Fact is, Labour is regarded as the caring party. It's nothing of the sort, of course, but the image is pervasive. The public simply believes Labour 'cares' more than the Conservatives about almost everything - with the gap between our relative 'caring' being a yawning one. Labour is regarded as soft and fluffy while we're right nasty buggers. The problem that this will always give us is that, if you're not really sure who to vote for, or if you're soft and fluffy yourself then your subconscious feelings will figure large in your assessment of the main contenders. When John Major won his election some centuries ago his victory was a surprise because it confounded just about all the polls. People were actually ashamed to admit to voting Conservative so they lied to the pollsters then voted for us anyway. (Since then in general elections the public has shown they don't want to vote for us at all but that's a different matter.)

The truth is - and I hate to admit it because I am almost despairing at the lack of solid conservatism coming out of my Party at the moment - if Mr Cameron closes that gap in perception so that it becomes negligible by the next election then one important portion of Labour's appeal to the floating voter disappears.

So I suppose I have to conclude thus: a general strategy that undermines any natural advantage the enemy possesses is to be welcomed. I think David Cameron is doing this and, I assume, he'll work through the list of areas where we're perceived as weak, culminating in the real areas of concern - see the list above - as we get closer to the general election. His emphasis on the environment now may well be his recognition that environment itself doesn't matter to many people but people's general perception of us is shaped by our attitude to it. So he'll alter the perception, erode Labour's advantage and move on to something slightly more important before eventually tackling - from the standpoint of a much-improved public image - some of the trickier subjects.

I hope.

Hope makes a great breakfast but a poor supper.
Yep, Gary, I don't think I want to wait around long enough to see if Cameron really is a true conservative. I don't think he is, Cameron is about Cameron becoming PM. And any successes that the Conservative Party have been enjoying at the expense of Labour's sleaze and corruption is now being seen as a mandate for a soft fluffy green Cameron by his smirking supporters (ignoring the fact that at the time of the election we probably had the most corrupt scandal-riven cabinet in over a century.)

Whistling in the dark, I'm afraid.
I must admit I was a Cameronian. Now I am not so sure. Watching DD interviews over the last few weeks makes me think just how genuine he is. He is a solid Shadow Home Secretary, making no-nonsense statements.

Watching DC prance about on a private jet to raise awareness of 'green issues', rent an extremely powerful (and polluting) car when preaching 'Vote Blue, get Green' and refusing to actually say (or do) anything that will actually help the environment just stinks of style over substance.

We shall see - I am still holding back my judgement on the chap. It could be that underneath it all, Cameron is a stirling chap. We just don't know.

Incidentally, one of my reasons for prefering DC over DD was that I thought DC would drive through some changes and make the Conservatives more electable. If DD had won, I was scared that nothing would be done - we would continue along our chosen track of the last 9 years. To a certain extent - I still think this. DC is a good caretaker, and is able to make the Conservatives electable next time around (not this time). DD would be a good PM - next time around!
Actually I care very much about the environment and have written about it lots on my site.

When I was interviewed for my job as the Eastern Region press officer for the Cons Party during last year's general election, I was asked what I thought about their campaign re immigration. I said that was fine, but they should be focusing on immigration too. The idea was poo pooed. I explained we could get lots of Lib Dem votes, as well as the younger age group. I was told it was not public sector and their strategy was already drawn up.

That was the present press officer of David Cameron.

Nice to see the changes Cameron has made since. I do believe it is for canny PR reasons, to connect with the public.

I also believe we need nuclear power, something France has embraced successfully. But like incinerators, they will never be popular in the UK.
I do!
That's why I'm not a member of the Conservative Party!
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