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Groundhog Day?

Groundhog Day?

Palace of Westminster viewed from across the Thames

Certainly feels like it, as the same two stories as last week battle for priority. Saving the planet or saving sleazy Tory backsides. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the Westminster/media bubble can be more than a little self-obsessed.

Latest opinion polls are starting to put Labour in the lead over the Conservatives for the first time in a long time. So the corruption scandal’s biting.

At the same time, respected scientists say a billion people will suffer extreme heat stress if the Glasgow climate emergency summit fails to deliver on its promises.

Oh, and btw, that’ll extend to half the world’s population if it all goes really wrong.

In spite of all the warm (sic) words, green campaigners are far from convinced that enough headway’s been made.

It’s all down to the detail. And naked self-interest on the part of nations making huge profits out of heavily polluting activities.

Also the matter of how much richer countries that’ve been doing the damage since forever owe poorer nations that are now suffering the consequences.

This led to much squabbling about who’ll pay up, and when. And how much, exactly.

That said, there were last week a few hopeful signs.

The two biggest culprits, China and the United States, made a rare joint promise to pull together on curbing emissions and deforestation.

Still a bit vague, but the hope is other baddies on the block, like Saudi Arabia and Russia, might feel compelled to do their bit also.

Certainly, cutting methane from Chinese coal mines alone would quickly make a small but meaningful difference.

And, apparently randomly but kind of relevantly, former cabinet minister John Prescott has taken a decisive little step.

Back in the day, his love of gas-guzzling cars earned him the nickname ‘Two Jags’. Well, he’s now rechristened himself ‘Zero Jags’.

He’s also given up environmentally-unfriendly fish’n’chips.

Ok, this won’t save the planet. But he adds: ‘As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, great acts are made up of small deeds.’

And there has indeed been a slew of separate and widely shared promises in Glasgow to cut coal production, methane emissions and chopping down trees.

In addition, fascinatingly, it’s emerged seaweed farming off the UK coast could really help .

Scientists say loads of it could be cultivated in the cold, clean waters, particularly round Scotland.

And not only does it absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide, it also can help ease dependency on smelly, planet-damaging petrol and diesel.

Peter Elbourne, who harvests the stuff to make food products, points out it has already been used to power a car.

Astonishing, but true. Unlike the nonsense being busily pumped out by the loony lobby about the climate crisis.

Turns out it’s a bit of a growth industry, telling social media users that countries are going to be locked down for ages to make sure targets are met.

One post claims this will be: ‘Just the ultimate, unlimited bail-out system for giant corporations.’

Not to say such institutions are blameless. Far from it. But please …

It all ties in, however, with the anti-covid conspiracists who insist that’s all nonsense too.

Broadcaster Richie Allen, for example, has included claims on his radio show that there’s no pandemic and the vaccinations are dangerous.

Regrettable, argues Kent Uni’s social psychology prof Karen Douglas, as ‘conspiracy theories can affect people’s attitudes, intentions and behaviours’.

Her opposite number at Warwick Uni, Quassim Cassam, cites damage caused by antisemitic holocaust deniers, or others targeting the gay community.

And the fact remains while the real journalists in British broadcasting aren’t allowed to make things up, opinionated amateurs can do what the hell they like.

Seems rather too many politicians have been giving themselves similar licence of late. Much to Boris Johnson’s discomfiture.

Just as he’s been trying to present the climate conference as a potential feather in UK’s cap he’s been having to bat off suggestions his lot are the real pollutants.

An irony being that, straight after last week’s sleaze debate, they were voting on stopping water companies pumping untreated excrement into rivers.

Calls to mind the so-called Great Stink of 1858. So much, er, horrid stuff had been tipped into the Thames that MP’s had to hold their noses.

Many did the same when Bojo made them give ex Tory minister Owen Paterson a get-out-of-jail free card, in spite of being banged to rights for lobbying offences.

The strategy backfired spectacularly. And as Johnson floundered, trying to present his ignominious U-turn as a principled decision, the sluice-gates opened.

Story after story emerged of MP’s doing dodgy stuff, usually just about within the rules, but way beyond the pale of public acceptability.

Oh come come, barked Boris. ‘I genuinely believe that the UK is not remotely a corrupt country, nor do I believe that our institutions are corrupt.’

But days later, Chancellor Rishi Sunak fessed up. ‘For us as a government, it’s fair to say that we need to do better than we did last week and we know that.’

Business Minister Paul Scully also conceded the optics weren’t brilliant. ‘Absolutely,’ he admitted. ‘I can see how it looks.’

Not good, when we now learn lots of MP’s have been letting out their London homes, then claiming taxpayer-funded allowances for renting other places.

Tut tut. Naughty naughty.

Then there’s the former Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox’s moonlighting activities.

He’s up before the beak for seeming to use his parliamentary office to defend the British Virgin Islands in a case brought by, ahem, the UK government.

What may stick in even more craws, however, is the estimated six million smackers he’s made from legal work since becoming an MP.

Unbecoming or what? Some will question why he even bothered to get elected in the first place, for the paltry eighty-grand or so these guys pick up.

Arguably a barefaced cheek, what some of them get up to, and get away with.

Same can’t be said of Darrell Meekcom from Kidderminister. After being diagnosed with terminal illness he fulfilled an extra cheeky bucket list wish.

But when he pulled down his trousers and bared his bottom at a speed camera the six, yes, six, cops banging on his door didn’t get the joke.

Not like he’d tried to murder anyone, hardly likely, in his condition. So much for police priorities. And it gets worse.

Seems they shoved him on the ground to arrest him. As if he was in any position to resist. Poor chap didn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance.

That said, new research suggests our feline friends are smarter than we realised.

Scientists at Kyoto Uni shut a load of them in a room while their owners called them from outside.

So far so chilled, but when those same voices were played out of a speaker at the opposite end of the room they were in they looked mightily confused.

Which proves, says the lead boffin Dr Saho Takagi, ‘cats can mentally map their location based on their owner’s voice’.

This suggests, she adds, that ‘cats have the ability to picture the invisible in their minds. Meaning they may ‘have a more profound mind than is thought’.

As if that’s not obvious. Just ask any cat owner. They’ll set you straight.

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

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