Professor Rex Harris writes:
Today I am 76 and I thought I should take this opportunity to reflect on the state of my beloved Labour Party and hopefully demonstrate that the present “doom and gloom” surrounding the party is, in my view, totally unjustified.
Although society has made enormous strides in technology and science we are still living under a very regressive political system. Thus we still have the primitive “first pass the post” electoral system whereby, with just 38% of the vote, the Tories have been re-elected for another depressing 5 years during which time the gap between rich and poor will become even wider.
Lack of scientific expertise in Parliament
The cabinet is still predominantly ex-public school and male and in the composition of the new parliament of around 650 MPs, only a very tiny minority will have any significant scientific/engineering background and hence technical knowledge. I believe that in the last parliament there was only one science-based PhD and, in the current batch the picture is probably even worse.
This critical absence of technical expertise is, to my mind, extremely worrying as the quality of the future will be dependent on implementing long term, technically-based measures determined by the overwhelming need to reduce carbon.
The mammoths in the room are climate change and resource depletion and yet these topics received barely a mention in the debates leading up to the 2015 general election. These and related areas will determine, not only the future shape of the Labour party but that of the whole world and these should be the dominant themes in the current and future debates.
When asked to define the most challenging aspect of his political life, Harold McMillan stated:
” Events dear boy, events”
This was a very wise statement and with the increasing manifestation of
climate change in the UK as well as throughout the world, related events will become ever-more predominant in political life. The difficult, if not impossible task, is to predict the exact time it will take for the reality of climate change and resource depletion to have a significant impact on the electorate.
Currently, I believe we are all living in a “fools’ paradise”
The stark reality is that our present consumer driven economic system cannot provide the necessary long term solutions to these problems and this is why the Labour party must not seek short-term political gain by trying to emulate our existing system which seems to be based predominantly on the motivating force of personal greed.
The necessary changes cannot be achieved by short-term tinkering with the existing system
The majority realisation that there has to be a radical change could come in the next 5 years or it might take longer, but come it will.
In the meantime the Labour party, along with other like-minded groups, has to formulate detailed root and branch policies to provide a workable alternative to the present unsustainable system which is based on the growing consumption of ever diminishing raw materials and evermore carbon-based energy.
The Labour Party must provide the blueprint for a sustainable future and the sooner it sets its mind to this objective the better.
It might be useful to consider what could be some of the political priorities (in no particular order):
- Introduce a system of proportional representation and real federalisation within the UK.
- Increase substantially the proportion of female Labour candidates.
- Try and increase the proportion of candidates with a scientific/engineering background. Aim for engineers and scientists to be “on top” not just “on-tap”.
- Develop a series of independent technical workshops to inform MPs and other policy makers of the technical challenges that lie ahead.
- Set-up a parliamentary group to investigate comprehensively the impacts of climate change and resource depletion. For instance, to develop a full-scale recycling strategy
- Look to build a purpose-built parliament building in the Midlands and convert the existing parliament buildings into tourist attractions.
- Strengthen and expand the concept of a “Green Bank” to fund new businesses based of sustainable technologies.
- Electrify all urban transportation and develop battery recycling technologies.
- Strengthen and develop EC and other international ties.
These are just some of the many priorities that Labour will have to address, analyse and then formulate workable solutions. A far cry from today’s often trivial and somewhat irrelevant arguments
Date: Monday, 27 July, 2015, 16:03