It was a strange day in the closing moments of the current Prime Minister’s time in office.
Listening to the media I got the impression that Jeremy Corbyn was asking lots of questions about climate change and that Mrs May was avoiding them and keeping coming back to anti-semiticism in the Labour Party (a party of which until recently I was a member). But when I checked the transcript in Hansard that wasn’t actually the case.
Now, which one of the two party leaders did best on climate change is up to each of us to decide, but there was a fair amount of meat in this exchange. The people who ignored the prominence of climate change in this exchange were actually the media not the politicians. Interesting.
Mrs May made another speech yesterday – about many things (and here is the transcript) – but primarily about the state of public debate in the UK (although note the welcome nod towards environmental care early on).
But you have to go to the Guardian writer John Crace, whose work makes me both smile often, and nod in agreement very often, to find a piercing analysis. Yes, much of what Mrs May said in her speech yesterday rings true, all that stuff about the willingness to compromise but not to compromise one’s values is right. And a tricky tightrope to walk for all of us. But where May fails, utterly fails, is that she doesn’t do what she tells the rest of us to do. As Crace puts it, May’s lack of self-awareness came to the fore in this speech. She has been a force for lack of compromise throughout her political life, and she has embraced populism wihout ever getting to be popular. Is this lack of self-awareness, is it self-delusion or is it actually a calculated double-speak of Orwellian proportions? I do not know Theresa May at all, so I cannot comment on her motives but as an observer I can comment on the fact that it is very difficult to discern what Theresa May has believed while she has been our Prime Minister, and when one has thought that one might have spotted a core belief then events have quickly made one doubt the sincerity of it.
It’s a bit of a leap from Theresa May to Martin Harper but the RSPB’s Conservation Director was in Portcullis House the other day chairing a ‘debate’ on the future of grouse shooting. I wasn’t invited to attend this debate to seek common ground and I’ll look forward to seeing the video when it emerges. But attendees tell me that the grouse shooters were standing their ground at the extreme end of the ‘get off my land and we aren’t giving an inch’ end of the spectrum. I look forward to the video. But there is little to be gained by trying to get the vested interest of grouse shooting to mend their ways, by which I mean stop killing wildlife illegally and make grouse shooting as environmentally sustainable as possible, because they’ve had their chance over decades to do so and haven’t taken it. They are backed into a corner of their own making and it’s time to finish off this pastime of little value to anyone.
Now that probably doesn’t sound much like searching for middle ground, does it? Well spotted! Only the very young can ignore the fact that the search for compromise has been the game for decades and has produced nothing, and only the naive can imagine that suddenly it will do so now. No, intensive grouse shooting’s days are numbered and the grouse shooters know that in their heads, in their hearts and in the chill that goes through their bones now and again.
When you face people who won’t compromise then you are compromising your ideals to keep pretending that a middle way is possible. Civilised debate and politeness are still needed, but a clear identification of the endpoint is needed, and when two sides have different endpoints that are separated by miles then compromise is not feasible.
I’m sometimes accused of being too nice to grouse shooters (not by grouse shooters) but I think that is confusing being polite and friendly (most of the time) with being friends. And I’m sometimes accused of being too nasty to grouse shooters but I think that is confusing saying what I believe with being rude.
This is what I wrote on this blog on 1 January this year – how do you think I am doing now we are more than half way through the year?
– to stand up for nature
– not to be gratuitously nasty
– not to be afraid of upsetting people
– to write with clarity and some style
– to reduce the number of typos and spelling mistakes
– to give others a voice
– to offer practical advice for its readers to help nature
– sometimes to be first with the news, but more often to be best with the comment on the news
Moreover, and this is not a sound bite, this blog resolves to treat people and organisations with respect where they deserve it but with derision where they deserve that. And all of us, including the main writer of this blog, are a mixture of good and bad – there is no-one who is all one or all the other, not in the real world. And so I will criticise my friends and praise those who are not generally aligned with my views – at least now and again.