European Elections – Candidates’ responses to NE-CAP

NE-CAP sent a set of straightforward ‘Questions for candidates’ to those
standing for election to the European Parliament, hoping that the responses
would help our supporters bear in mind ‘the greatest number, in the greatest
need’ when casting their votes. The candidates’ unedited responses are
available to read.

COMMENTARY by Dr David Golding CBE, on behalf of NE-CAP, to the responses of candidates. [Note that David is not politically affiliated, but tries to judge policies on their merits.]

CONSERVATIVE PARTY

I have been disappointed to receive no response from Conservative
candidates, despite my sending a reminder in good time.

However, it seems only right that I should at this time make mention of the
extraordinary support given to our ‘Jubilee for Justice’ initiative by Guy
Opperman, Conservative MP for Hexham.

GREEN PARTY

The response is positive, unambiguous and emphatic. You couldn’t put a
needle between their stance on these issues and ours.

LABOUR PARTY

Candidates “broadly agree with each question”, which sounds encouraging! The past record of Labour MEPs on most of these issues is excellent and I have no reason to doubt that new members will continue along those lines.

They seem hesitant about audits for debts and this is disappointing to
NE-CAP, as a founder member of Jubilee Debt Campaign. Quite honestly, I
would have thought that such a procedure would, in principle, have been
‘motherhood and apple pie’ to the Labour Party.

[Audits are hardly ‘rocket science’! They involve scrutiny of debts to
determine which of them are legitimate and they have been carried out, for
example, by Norway and Ecuador.]

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT PARTY

First, we acknowledge what a wonderful MEP we’ve had in Fiona Hall, who
piloted the ‘Publish what you pay’ transparency bill through the European
Parliament – our great success story last year – and for other reasons!
NE-CAP wishes her well in her post-MEP life.

The LibDems have an exemplary record in their response to climate change, as their (lengthy!) response shows. Similarly, we have no reason to doubt the strength and sincerity of the new candidates in their commitment to tax
justice and ‘publish what you pay’.

Unhappily, the party has seriously damaged its reputation with us with the
refusal of Vince Cable, the relevant minister, to institute an audit of
debts owed to Britain – a distressing stance which flies in the face of the
party’s previous, explicit statement on the matter. Is this the reason for
the ambiguity of Angelika’s statement in this connection? She says they
support the impartial audit of debts, but then cites a policy position on
aid transparency, which is rather different. [We have no reason to believe
that Mr Cable’s decision has been forced on him by his coalition partners.]

If the party wishes to restore its reputation for integrity, it should at
the very least include a commitment to debt audits in its next election
manifesto, as the SNP has done.

UNITED KINGDOM INDEPENDENCE PARTY (UKIP)

Oh help, where shall I start?!

Perhaps by acknowledging the courtesy and good will of Jonathan Arnott, UKIP North East’s lead candidate. Despite his party’s “standard policy… not to complete surveys”, he put in a lot of effort, at a time when he must be
under great pressure of work, to give us a detailed personal statement.

Unhappily, UKIP seems to be taking the equivalent of the ‘Thabo Mbeki
option’ in relation to climate change. The former president of South Africa
thought he knew better than all the world’s medical authorities and refused
to believe that AIDS is caused by a virus, HIV. His failure to make
treatment available resulted in the needless deaths of over 300,000 people –
a crime for which he has never been held to account.

Similarly, I believe that UKIP has forfeited the right to occupy any
position of power or influence by its obdurate rejection of the science of
climate change, a far more serious issue. “Never have we faced a graver
threat”, stated Lord Robert May, as President of the Royal Society; “Only a
willful blindness worse than any proverbial ostrich’s head in the sand can
ignore the facts of environmental destruction. To be unconcerned about it is
to be either desperately ignorant or irresponsibly callous”, says the
theologian, Dr Chris Wright.

I commend to anyone not ‘willfully blind’ the recent joint publication on
climate change of the Royal Society and US National Academy of Sciences,
entitled “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes”.

As for details, briefly:

China: of course we can’t solve this problem by ourselves, but having
pioneered the industrial, fossil-fuelled, Industrial Revolution, we can and
should give a lead. And remember, we are still producing far more carbon
dioxide per head than the Chinese.

Wind turbines: if it’s calm in one place, it’s often blowing a gale
somewhere else! And if it isn’t, solar panels may be actively generating! In
the future, we hope biomass, tidal and wave power will contribute. Yes, we
will continue to need gas as a back-up in the short term, but this in no way
undermines the contribution of wind energy to reduce pollution as much as
possible.

Cost: As Chris Hulne has said, “Onshore wind is one of the two great
renewable successes – the other being solar panels – where the EU’s support
has caused dramatic falls in cost. It is a triumphant example of successful
industrial strategy creating cheap alternatives to fossil fuels. The
government. believes this will be the only renewable technology that may be
cheaper than natural gas in 2020.” [Google, “The Conservatives’ onshore wind sums are all at sea”] And nuclear power, which Mr Arnott favours, is also very expensive.

Aid: As usual, the ‘lies’ they tell are the truths about which they remain
silent! For example, in 2012, approximately 6.6 million children worldwide –
18,000 children per day – died before reaching their fifth birthday, but
this is roughly half the number of under-fives who died in 1990, when 12.6
million children died. Nothing to compare with this has ever happened in
human history!

The aid system is not ‘fundamentally broken’, but it is badly flawed, and Mr
Arnott is right to highlight the importance of trade. Remember, our platform
for ‘Make Poverty History’ in 2005 was “trade justice, drop the debt, and
more and better aid” – note the priority. Unhappily, our leaders have
completely failed to fulfil their promises on the first of these. Nevertheless, aid is making a valuable contribution in the fight against
global poverty.

Pesticides and malaria: I think the point being made here has been refuted
by the science historian, Professor Naomi Oreskes, in “Merchants of Doubt”
(Bloomsbury, 2010) – compulsory reading for anyone wanting to know how we got into our present mess!

Contact David Golding: david.golding[at]ncl.ac.uk

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