To say that I am angry is a bit of an understatement. Councillor Maria Roe and myself submitted a motion to this coming Thursday’s full meeting of Dorset Council. This motion called upon the Council to support the Climate and Ecology Bill which is waiting for its Second Reading in Parliament, and (more importantly) to write to our local MPs asking them to support the Bill. This Bill would (amongst other things) require the Prime Minister to achieve certain climate and ecological objectives, give the Secretary of State a duty to create and implement a strategy to achieve those objectives, and give duties to the Committee on Climate Change regarding the objectives and strategy. This Bill is essential background legislation for the successful implementation of Dorset Council’s own Climate and Ecological Strategy.
However, Cllr Roe and myself have been informed that our motion is not considered suitable for debate. This is bad enough, but what has really angered me is that despite asking the Council’s Corporate Director for Legal and Democratic Services twice for an explanation as to why the motion is not considered suitable for debate I have had no reply. This places me in an awkward position because until I have been given such an explanation I cannot be certain how to respond. In the mean time the best I can do is simply repeat the words of Cllr Ray Bryan, the cabinet member responsible for the Council’s Climate and Ecological Strategy: “Dorset Council as an organisation is only responsible for 1% of the county’s carbon emissions and has limited powers to affect the remaining 99% without huge changes to national legislation by central government.” Because the success of our Dorset Strategy is so dependent upon the national strategy, it is surely essential for the citizens of Dorset that this Bill is supported by our MPs.
This assumes, of course, that I will be given an explanation as to why our motion is not considered suitable for debate. The nightmare situation is that no explanation is forthcoming. This would be such a serious threat to democracy that I really do not believe the silence would be allowed to continue. However, even if I do now receive an explanation (as of 10.00am Tuesday morning none has been received) it is too late to do anything about it in relation to Thursday’s meeting – which in itself could be considered an erosion of the democratic process.
Last week I attended a briefing for Dorset Councillors on the post-Covid recovery. At this briefing the Leader of the Council and other members of his cabinet went to great pains to express their view that such things are “non-political”. Really? There are two sides to this comment, both of which I disagree with. One is the implication that there are certain areas of community or social life where the desired outcome is beyond opinion – that this outcome is somehow objectively obvious to anyone who thinks clearly. The other is that politics is a superficial activity, some sort of past-time that whilst interesting is unnecessary when it comes to the really important issues. Any form of socio-economic recovery assumes an understanding of what the healthy or desired state of normal looks and feels like, and this understanding will vary greatly according the political views of the person holding them. A strong believer in the market economy will hold a different view of what we should be trying to achieve to someone like me who would like to see an end to the equalities that our market economy has created.
I have found the death of the Duke of Edinburgh very difficult to come to terms with. Not because it has deeply affected me, but because a great many assumptions are being made about how I feel and what I thought about the man. Whilst I wish no personal harm to members of the Royal Family, I feel no warmth or affection to any of them either. They are an archaic legacy from a past which should be just that – the past. Such privilege should have no place in a modern society. It was bad enough that the BBC changed the schedules of Radio 4 and both BBC1 and BBC2 to news coverage. Yes, both channels! Why both? And took BBC4 off air completely! Again, why? Surely all the viewers who wished to soak up the atmosphere would have been satisfied with just one channel devoted to news of the event. But even worse than this were the comments made by my MP, Chris Loder. In a letter to the queen, published on Twitter, he claimed that “the constant presence of Your Majesty” was a comfort to his constituents. Does he actually believe this? There may well be some residents of West Dorset who are so comforted, but by no means everyone – and by no means myself!