Read BBC Wildlife’s election special

If you are going to vote on 7 May – and I do hope you will – then your preparation should start by  reading the April issue of BBC Wildlife magazine (giraffe on cover).

The 6-page election special asks eight questions of the Conservatives, Greens, Labour, Lib Dems, Plaid, SNP and UKIP.


The questions are good ones:

  • how would you tackle bovine TB?
  • should development sometimes be stopped to protect wildlife?
  • should the neonic ban be made permanent?
  • should farmers be incentivised to protect rare species?
  • should some marine areas be fully protected?
  • should the hunting ban be repealed?
  • should wolves and lynx be reintroduced?
  • how would you reduce raptor persecution?

You must read for yourself, and decide for yourself, whether the answers are good or not.

This is what I did. First, I read the answers and rated them with a tick (I approve), a dash (hmm, not sure) and a cross (don’t like that!) for all parties. Then I went through again deciding whether I believed what they were saying or not! I did this based on the parties’ past performance, what they have said for the last five years, and their overall political philosophy. It’s quite a crude way to look at things, but I offer it to you as a way of separating what you are told and what you should believe.

I’m not going to tell you anything about the answers as I really do recommend that you go out and buy this issue and read it carefully.

photoBut I will say this, as a member of the Labour Party. Labour was near (very near) the foot of the list in my analysis. It pains me that the party I support for many reasons (rather a lot of them historical rather than current) is so poor on these issues that matter so much to me.

And it was worse than that. In these answers, published in a wildlife magazine, for a wildlife audience, Labour sits firmly on just about every fence on offer. The Labour answers are a case-study in avoiding answering the question. If you are looking for inspiration from Labour on these issues, then I suggest to you, you won’t find it here (though you should read it for yourself!).

I’ll be waiting to see the election manifestos of the parties and will share with you on this blog my views of them. My local Labour MP, Andy Sawford, is assured of my vote on 7 May and my active support in this Labour/Conservative marginal but I’ll be reviewing my membership of the party after the election.





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14 Replies to “Read BBC Wildlife’s election special”

  1. I have also become very disillusioned with Labour's position on the environment Mark. While Ed Miliband obviously "gets" Climate Change, it appears that as far as Labour are concerned, by "doing" something on Climate Change, they feel they can tick the Environment box. But it may be much more serious than that.

    As I wrote about on Monday, a recent poll by YouGov asked voters where they thought the spending cut axe should fall after the election. Voters of all stripes felt Overseas Aid should be the top priority for cuts, but in second place Labour voters aimed the axe at "the environment and climate change" - along with UKIP voters.

    Only the Libdems felt protecting spending on climate change and the environment was more important than protecting spending on welfare, defence and transport (tied in 5th place), while Tory voters wanted to see the axe fall on welfare spending ahead of the environment and climate change.

    Although it's only one poll, it is also one in a series - last January (2014) Labour voters would have rather seen cuts in defence ahead of "environment and climate change".

    1. Miles - how can Labour do without both you and me 😉 ?? We won't be the only ones. I await the manifestos with interest.

    2. This is what happens when politics are developed and delivered by tactics and soundbites rather than strategy. Nobody is able to join the dots or present a coherent vision that places a healthy environment at the centre of a sustainable future, and joins the dots to health, education, economy etc.

      Indeed the biggest problem with the environment is the denial, despite all evidence to the contrary, of the scale of degradation. There seems to be a collective view that as long as we can all see green outside everything is OK. It's not. The quantified evidence for declines in songbirds, invertebrates, seabirds, specialist plants is an increasingly noisy canary in the coalmine. But still the political parties treat the environment as irrelevant - look at NIAs and the minuscule funding provided, look at how the Siren voices of the NFU seem to be given priority over environmental Interests in influencing CAP policy (and indeed at EU level how agriculture and environment interests are poorly integrated), look at how Defra and in particular the ex DoE functions of Defra have been shredded and targeted for the biggest cuts, whilst environmental regulations are perceived as little more than obstacles to growth.

  2. I do so agree Mark, it is very disappointing that Labour (so far at least) has not been much more positive towards our wildlife.
    The only beneficial thing for wildlife I ?think? they have said so far is that they will transfer to wildlife friendly farming, the direct grant monies that currently are to go to farmers under the new CAP budget. This is the proportion of the money that Cameron refused to let Owen Paterson pass onto wildlife friendly farmers. If Labour were to do this it would be quite significant,
    However on the whole their performance to date has been very mediocre towards better wildlife protection. They seem to lack any progressive thing on the subject and if anything are rather reactionary. While i have voted for them in the past, unless they pull a rabbit out of their hat with their manifesto i will not be voting for them this time.

  3. On environment and wildlife issues Labour has always delivered more than the attention given to it in their manifestos. I assume this is the pre- election paranoia of having everything they promise costed, trebeled and multiplied for luck by the Tories and their election polling gurus ( as in all parties ) saying the environment does not feature high in the list of voter priorities. A mistake I think and they should be bolder but I still think they have the better record.

  4. Well I don't have access to the BBC Wildlife magazine but the Countryfile site has a similar set of questions - and answers which for the most part are as predictable as a roadsweeper's worksheet but I'm slightly surprised that for responses to the given set of issues including HS2 I'm minded to vote for a Coalition between Plaid Cymru and UKIP so I'm effectively disenfranchised as per usual

  5. At more or less exactly this moment 18 years ago Michael Meacher committed the incoming Labour Government to introduce a Wildlife Bill (which became the CROW Act), something which the Conservation NGOs had been calling for for about five years at that point. I don't recall it being in their manifesto (but could be wrong).

    The commitment came after the ploughing of Offham Down, which was one in a series of damaging acts perpetrated against nature under a fairly uncaring Tory Government of the time, and despite all the positive noise circulating around the Biodiversity Strategies of the time.

    It took a bit of cause celebre like Offham Down, created in no small part by Tony Juniper and his tiny team of nature campaigners at Friends of the Earth, to put enough pressure on both the Tories and Labour, to take the action needed which would halt the continuing loss of SSSI habitat under the previous weak legislation. If the Tories had got back in in 97 I wonder whether the CROW Act would have happened? Almost certainly not. And yes, it was the value of the habitat at Offham Down which made the difference to the case; and the value was proven by the presence of nationally scarce wild flowers (which a colleague and I found).

    But looking at Labour now, and comparing it with the party I remember from back then, it seems as though we would not have got the result we got then, if it had been the current Labour party being lobbied. And that is exemplified by (national) Labour's refusal to condemn proposals to destroy Lodge Hill SSSI, and Medway Labour's persistent enthusiasm for its destruction.

  6. One of the big problems with protecting wildlife (and in fact all animals) is that measures beneficial to animals would impact negatively on big business - Labour are Tory-lite when dealing with business, so they won't make the difficult decisions required. The Labour animal manifesto is very disappointing - but after the disaster of the New Life for Animals promises back in 1997 they are probably wary of pledging too much. My Labour MP has said they don't want to bring in anything (substantial to help animals) that might be overturned by the Tories next time they get into power - I have to wonder why not join the Tories then? The main parties are pants for animals, only the Greens have good policies.

    1. "for animals, only the Greens have good policies"

      ... but they are remarkably coy about their policy on angling while openly declaring they would introduce policies that would end all forms exploitation of animals in commercial racing. Dig further back and you can find they intend to end angling by means of re-education - in the manner of a Khmer Vert

  7. In an election this close, with the two large parties mustering barely over 30% each of the vote, and refining their offers even more narrowly towards the marginals, you are never going to get any serious offers to minority voter concerns like the environment. That seems unlikely to change, since a broader offer and broader appeal would require one of them, first, to outflank the other with radical, credible policies on the central economic and social issues - unlikely.

    The upside however of the narrowing appeal and perspective of the two main parties is that it leaves room in the remaining 30-40% of the vote for parties like the Greens. That offers some hope of a more diverse system with a stronger voice for key, but lower profile, issues like environment. Both main parties have always justified the two party system on grounds that both are broad churches, able to encompass many opinions, so they are already coalitions. That is now clearly not the case, if it ever was, and there is room to build other parties, whatever you may think of their current policies. It is a long game.

    Anyone who thinks that the Labour/Tory stranglehold can't be broken, or who thinks that would lead to chaos, should look at Scotland, where a party which has indeed played a long game, and which was once considered lunatic, has now been the party of government for a decade and is about to either reconfigure or dissolve your country. If the SNP, why not the Greens, it just needs the necessary commitment.

    Not to say that the SNP is any better on the environment beyond climate change though !

  8. Thanks Mark.

    I've voted Labour in the past too, but I've been a member of the Greens for years now and that's not just because we have the best environmental policies but the best social policies as well. So I'll be voting Green in a week and a few hours' time.

    What I want to know from all the parties is:

    What will you do about climate change?
    (Most will do something, though not very much, and UKIP would actually make climate change worse, as far as I can make out.)

    Will you support the Nature and Wellbeing Act?
    (As far as I'm aware the only parties that have officially signed up are the Greens and the LibDems, though individual candidates may have said they'll support it.)

    Will you support more Marine Protected Areas / Marine Conservation Zones?
    (Haven't kept up to date with this, but I'm not impressed with the reluctance the 2010-2015 government has shown to implement all the recommended sites.)

    Will you cancel HS2?
    (This is one area where UKIP get a tick from me. But the Greens also would stop HS2. Quite why the Labour Party of all people want to destroy homes and landscapes and habitats just so some rich people can have a whole railway all to themselves, and a pointless unnecessary railway at that, I really don't know. And I suspect the reasons for the Greens opposing HS2 are more environmentally and socially aware than UKIP's reasons.)

    Will you oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?
    (Greens definitely understand that TTIP is a threat to the environment, the health service and democracy itself. Most other parties seem to repeat endlessly the gibberish that 'it'll be good for trade'.)

    I'd also like to ask all sorts of questions about food and farming, but I'd better stop there.

    The BBC election guide lumps all environmental things together so that their guide gives only a few policies for each party and it's difficult to get a clearer picture.


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