Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The Last Word: While you were sleeping

While you were sleeping

Fresh from Brussels and meetings with energy policy makers in the EU this week; a radical thought occurs. A thought so radical and far reaching that few people – other than energy policy obsessives like me – have taken the time to notice.

You need to be a particularly strange/brilliant* politician to get excited by energy policy, but the fact is that it’s fundamental to every political issue you can mention. Domestic taxation, economic growth, manufacturing, environmental policy, and foreign policy – the politics of energy underpins all of it.

Those who believe that the Paris climate change agreement represents a watershed moment in the fight against climate change are, I fear, probably wrong. Paris represents a political and diplomatic triumph. It should be welcomed, but right now it means nothing.

Politicians and diplomats alone won’t – and can’t – fight climate change. We need scientists, engineers, builders and determined communities to do this. Ten years into our necessary and overdue nuclear renaissance in the United Kingdom, and much to my chagrin, we are yet to lay a brick on a new reactor.

These things take time, of course, but let’s stop the political back slapping and get on with building the new electricity generating capacity we need before it’s too late to fight climate change in any meaningful sense.

Remember peak oil? Peak gas? Turns out we might have been wrong all along. All over the world, new reserves are being discovered and there is a market glut. Much of the over-production is pure geopolitics, but with oil at $30 a barrel (just let that sink in) and predicted by some to reach $20 fairly soon, implementation of the Paris accord is already facing enormous difficulty.

The response to this unprecedented market shift is, so far, political somnambulism. How do we ensure sustainable and robust economic growth, environmental progress and lower energy prices for businesses and consumers with oil at $30 a barrel?

Answers on a postcard please.

*delete as appropriate


CYdWVaTUwAACjBkThe loss of David Bowie and Alan Rickman this week was greeted with an understandable and legitimate outpouring of public grief. Rickman was a much-celebrated actor who leaves an impressive body of work. Bowie’s legacy will be contested only with regard to the scale of its influence: truly seismic or merely biblical?

In the most peculiar way, such losses represent an opportunity for people to come together. It isn’t mawkish, when first confronted with the news of the death of important cultural figures, for anyone to state how much they admired or even loved those people in question. It’s a tribute, it’s a celebration, and it’s an affirmation of our lives and the lives of those we mourn. It may even help those closest to those who have died to know that their loved ones meant so much to so many people.

Certain spleen-spewing cynics passing as cultural commentators have this week decried the public shows of grief, and affection, now demonstrated upon the news of the death of a famous figure. Such criticism is indecent.

There’s something beautiful in hundreds of millions of people around the world, from every social, economic, racial and religious strata coming together to say goodbye. With social media, we mark our own culture in our own way. Shared events give rise to a spectacular electronic communion; we’re all the better for it. The Viking dead were sent to Valhalla in blazing boats; we send 140 characters in to the ether. As Bowie wrote: ‘We will never be free of these stars, but I hope they live forever…’

When I die, I expect that it will be difficult to move for the sheer number of statues. Largely, this is because a fortune teller told me that I’ll die in an industrial accident in a crowded statue storage area at the British Museum, but this is beside the point.


Jamie Reed MP is member of parliament for Copeland. He writes The Last Word column on Progress and tweets @jreedmp


Photos: Tim_D and The Economist

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Jamie Reed MP

is member of parliament for Copeland. He is shadow minister for health and writes The Last Word column on Progress


  • Many MPs, including Jamie Reed, John Woodcock et al, appear to have become part-time employees. They seem to divide their time between Twitter, Facebook, TV and Radio studios; when in the office, constituency business may take a back seat, to the paid columns they are writing for the right-wing tabloids and occasional broadsheet.

    Obviously, this results in a an exceptionally low attendance at debates within the Chamber, even following the blocking of access to pornographic sites, via the parliamentary servers and Wi-Fi. Most employers have an acceptable use policy, regarding both the use of social media, during work hours and a requirement that employees spend only a small proportion of their working hours on non-business related activities such as: web-surfing, boozing, plotting coups and even fornication!

    The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament is not particularly stringent but the bastions of inefficiency, referenced above, seem to be operating beyond these somewhat elastic behavioural parameters and perhaps a referral to the Committee on Standards would be in order?

    Given that the number of MPs is to be reduced by 50, following the Boundary Commission review, which almost inevitably will result in competition for some seats. Surely this could result in the laziest and/or worse behaved MPs maximising their chances of deselection, in the face of a better alternative candidate?

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