Meatloaf sang a power ballad (RIP Jim Steinman) with the chorus
“I want you
I need you
But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you
But don’t feel sad…
Because two out of three ain’t bad.”
This blog post addresses a particular response to the three climate commitments that we (CEM) and allies have been asking candidates in the local elections to respond to. So far very few candidates of those who have replied have been “no no no” (One Labour – Mandie Shilton-Godwin, Chorlton Park and one Conservative – Alexander Bramham, Ancoats and Beswick).
Most of those who have replied, sometimes after quite a lot of chivvying, have provided an enthusiastic – or at least consistent – “yes, yes, yes.”
However, a small number of (Labour) candidates have said that while they support commitments two (scrutiny committees to receive reports) and three (Executive to have a standing item on city-wide climate progress) they do NOT support the first commitment. In response to that, we have already put up an explanation and “loosening” of the first commitment.
The hesitation, the candidates tell us, comes from – well, to quote Marcia Hutchinson, Labour candidate in the closely-fought seat of Ancoats and Beswick “not 1 as it would be impossible to implement.“
Superficially, that might seem plausible. But only superficially.
Because the very things that will be needed to complete commitment two and three – namely negotiation, lobbying, persuasion, moral stands – will also be what gets us commitment one. No individual (with the possible exception of the Glorious Leader – and he ain’t playing) – has the authority to ram through agenda items onto six distinct scrutiny committees. No-one but him could get a standing item onto Executive agendas without having to rely on other people’s good will.
And if we can’t get the Council – 96 councillors and a few thousand staff – to be honest about the scale of the challenge of sticking to science-based carbon budgets, why do we think we have any hope of decarbonising a city of 550 thousand people?
So, on one level, the rationale for having cold feet doesn’t stack up. Rather than speculate about why these candidates are saying this (there’s also Eve Holt, Labour candidate in Chorlton and Chris Wills, Labour candidate in Withington), we will tip our hand and explain how we – as CEM – are going to work on this first commitment after the elections.
Here’s how it can be done
Firstly, we are going to be paying very close attention to what information the Council puts out – on its wretched Twitter feed, its press releases etc. If ever these channels put out guff about the “science-based target” for the city without ALSO mentioning the cataclysmic lack of progress on the carbon budget, we will write to the Head of Comms, CCing in the CEO, deputy CEO and City Solicitor, alongside the Leader of the Council, the Executive Member for the Environment, the Executive Member for Culture and the chair of at least one of the six scrutiny committees. We will point out that real leadership involves telling the truth not just about big shiny targets, but also actual progress. Captain Smith of the Titanic could not simply repeat “but we have a science-based target for getting to New York faster than any other ship” after the iceberg had thrown itself in his path. That’s not being a captain.
Secondly, we will also be monitoring – very closely – the pronouncements – speeches (if there are any), scrutiny committee performances, other-council-meeting performances, and Twitter feeds, “etc etc” of elected members, senior management team folks and other officers.
When they mention that cataclysmic lack of progress in the same or next sentence as the “science-based target” we will write to them saying “thanks.”
If they don’t, we (oh, and that “we” will grow) will write to them (ccing in everyone else) pointing out that they haven’t, Captain Smith etc.
Thirdly, we will keep doing that, referring to our previous letters, until things change.
We will keep a public tally of who commits the most crimes against leadership and honesty. We will award a plastic trophy to the first individual to get to five, and hold a parade when they get to ten. These may be called the Pinocchio Awards, or the Tyndall Awards or the Johnson Awards – we’re hazy on the details. The operation (CEM runs on operations and projects) might be called Operation Targeting Truth (or OTT for short).
There’s a bunch of other stuff we have planned within OTT, but, you know, element of surprise / tactics named are tactics killed etc etc. So let the part tell the whole…
Shifting the norms – you in or out?
This is good old-fashioned “norm-shifting”, the sort of action that was needed to create a “low carbon culture by 2020.” We are going to do everything we can to make it impossible to continue spin, distraction and evasion.
We invite people who care about climate change, who want the best for this city and those who currently live here and will live here in decades to come, to join us in this effort.
Those candidates who have not yet said yes to all the commitments are welcome to join us in that effort.