Monday, May 05, 2008


In the light of the inimitable Boris Johnson's just confirmed ascension to mayoral office in London, the following quotes may be of interest. Just for fun, however, I might firstly note here that, although Boris will now become Mayor of London, he will NOT be the The Lord Mayor of the City of London -- who is at present David Lewis. You don't have to be British to follow that but it helps. The "City" is only a small part of the London conurbation

Boris Johnson claimed a remarkable victory in the London mayoral contest on Friday night to cap a disastrous series of results for Gordon Brown in his first electoral test as Prime Minister. Mr Johnson's landmark victory, a result that would have been almost unthinkable six months ago, was the most symbolic blow to Mr Brown's authority on a day that left the Prime Minister facing the gravest crisis of his leadership.
--Andrew Porter and Robert Winnett, The Daily Telegraph, 3 May 2008

Mr Livingstone made clear he views 1 May as a referendum on his policies to tackle climate change and protect the health of Londoners. Aides claimed it would be the first election in British history to be decided largely on environmental issues.
--The London Evening Standard, 25 March 2008

Londoners now face a stark choice. Boris Johnson is an environmental vandal, whose main contribution to environmental policy was as a cheerleader for George W Bush's disastrous decision to oppose the Kyoto climate treaty. The election is neck and neck and everyone who cares about the environment needs to vote with the first and second preferences for myself and Sian Berry if we are to stop Boris Johnson wrecking London's environment.'
--Ken Livingstone, 25 April 2008

There are a hundred reasons why Boris Johnson should not be Mayor of London. But his dinosaur views on the environment alone are enough to show what a disaster he would be for our city. The man who backed Bush against the Kyoto treaty and who doesn't believe there's a risk from passive smoking cannot be trusted with our future - or even, really, with his own. He's a 19th century man in a 21st century city
--Sian Berry, Green Party, 25 April 2008

Under a climate change denier like Boris Johnson, we would have to fear for our futures, and for the jobs of all the hundreds who work for us. We would also have to fear for the physical security of the city itself, under the assault of unmitigated global warming, were others to follow Johnson's 'lead' on climate change.
--Jeremy Leggett, SolarCentury, 25 April 2008

The prospect of Boris as Mayor of London is just so scary. The prospect of Boris taking over London's Climate Change Action Plan is even scarier. He may have learnt not to reveal his full contrarian bigotry on climate change, but he really doesn't get it, and would rapidly scale back or completely get rid off the ambitious targets in the Action Plan. And that would be a massive set back. I just hope all the environmental NGOs can rally the troops in London in a pro-Ken campaign, even if they can't come out and explicitly endorse him.
--Jonathon Porritt, Sustainable Development Commission, March 2008

The hypocrisy of the Europeans over Kyoto is staggering. They attack America in hysterical terms, and yet the 15 EU countries have never come close to meeting their own eight per cent target for cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. They have not even agreed which countries should cut the most. If America were to meet its Kyoto targets now, it would require a cut of 30 per cent in emissions, and how, exactly, is that supposed to work in the current economic downturn? It would exacerbate the recession, and when Bush says no, he is doing what is right not just for America but for the world
--Boris Johnson, The Daily Telegraph, April 2001

Tony Blair: "You didn't realize how much you needed me"?

Rightward movement in both London and Rome: "In less than a week the major political parties of the Right in Britain and Italy scored unprecedented electoral victories by winning mayoral races in Rome and then in London. Since the end of the Second World War, the Right had never controlled those two offices. To grasp what this means, consider that "Londonistan" is the title of an excellent book by Melanie Phillips which warns of the descent of that great city into a radical Moslem polity. The citizens of Londonistan have chosen an iconoclastic Conservative Party leader, Boris Johnson, who has campaigned on the need to reduce crime in London and who has condemned the academic boycott of Israel by British universities as "disgusting and one sided." Although Johnson is more an offbeat moderate than a strong conservative, in Londonistan the change is dramatic and sweeping compared to what it had been before. His defeated opponent, "Red Ken" Livingston, was a blatant fan of every Marxist thug and radical Moslem in the world."

[There is a good humorous piece by Boris Johnson here]

Modern Britain: No Laughing Matter

Earlier generations of Britons believed that certain things simply could not happen in Britain. Even in the country's darkest moments of war or depression, this conviction differentiated the then proud nation from the U.S.S.R., third world countries, and unstable regimes that might fall to dictatorship any moment. News blackouts, and the banning of a book or film of course occurred here or there, but these never seemed very serious events.

When the Thatcher government banned the sale of the novel, Spycatcher, in Britain, it was smuggled into the country from abroad, and reported in the press despite legal challenges. Humor was the public's usual way of dealing with such things, and the banning of a book that most people could get ahold of, turned politics into a laughing stock. And not for the first or last time either. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, when Oswald Moseley's "black shirt" fascists were parading through London, Lady Astor commented that if they should ever gain power the British people would die laughing. How prophetic this was. A few years later Charlie Chaplin denounced and mocked the Nazis in his film, The Great Dictator, even as prime minister Neville Chamberlain sought to win "peace for our time" by appeasing Hitler.

In the 1980s and early 1990s the satirical puppet show, Spitting Image, which mocked the politicians of the time, became a staple of television viewing, even for those who generally did not like television that much. The puppets were grotesque, but politics at that time - and before that time - was raw, unscripted. Thatcher, like other leaders, spoke from the gut as well as the brain, and the picture was not always pretty, but it was human, and it represented the British people. In an excellent op-ed piece for The Daily Mail recently, Lord Tebbit - Thatcher's once right-hand man - spoke of his love for his puppet-portrayal as a "leather-clad bovver boy," his dismay at the banal, politically correct, mainstream parties who seem indistinguishable from one another, and constant political failings that are, "so ridiculous that it is beyond satire."

Political correctness has cowed society and politics, and trodden down common sense and humor. Unlike the defiant, bawdy Brit of the past, today he thinks before he speaks, running through the list of forbidden words, and making sure not to let one slip. And so much now is taboo. The English Democrats Party is under investigation for racism, for using the term, "tartan tax," a student was arrested for calling a police horse "gay," and, if you need to see the proof of such extreme "politically correct" intolerance, a Youtube video showing a young man being arrested for singing, "I'd rather wear a turban" (deemed racist by the arresting officer), can be seen here.

A common language is one of the traditional, defining marks of a nation, and the criminalization of words will have a very profound consequence for the British. Though rarely acknowledged as such, humor is another defining mark, and one that makes use of the nation's language in particular ways that relies on the audience having a good general knowledge of culture, history, and politics. Notably, Voltaire once commented that tragedies could be translated from one tongue to another, but that comedies could not. Anyone wishing to grasp the English comedy would need to, "spend three years in London, to make yourself master of the English tongue, and to frequent the playhouse every night," he suggested.

Political correctness has changed British politics and society, the latter of which has been famed for its ability to laugh at itself - an ability that has certainly helped to keep it free and democratic. Extremists - whether of the fascist, politically correct, or Islamic type - are united in their suspicion - even rejection - of humor. Humor shows them for what they really are. When the "Mohammed cartoons" provoked riots and death threats by Islamic radicals, Jack Straw could only remark,
I said at the time that the cartoons were reprinted in Europe - though not here in the United Kingdom - that doing so was needlessly insensitive and disrespectful. The right to freedom of expression is a broad one and something which this country has long held dear. [.] But the existence of such a right does not mean that it is right - morally right, politically right, socially right - to exercise that freedom without regard to the feelings of others.

With those words Straw beheads the figure of humor before our eyes, in order to appease those who might be offended. Not every Muslim is humorless, of course, and in the U.S., for example, there is a comedy show called "Allah made me funny," with Muslim comedians who are able to poke fun at themselves. The show was the initiative of Preacher Moss, who wanted to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims after 9/11. Yet in Britain we see that appeasement has become de facto policy of the "liberal" media, with various controversial words or subjects banned. Ben Elton - a comedian and author once noted for his staunchly Left-wing politics - recently accused the B.B.C. of being too "scared" to poke fun at radical Islam, noting that he was even told not to use the entirely innocuous phrase, "Mohammed came to the mountain" apparently for fear of the consequences.

A few days ago, it emerged that the B.B.C. and rival television broadcaster I.T.V. insisted that the Christian Choice political party make changes to the language of its electoral broadcast concerning their opposition to the building of Europe's largest mosque in London. The party had described Tablighi Jamaat, the group behind its planning, as "separatist," and noted that some "moderate Muslims" were against the mega-mosque. But the B.B.C. was worried, and insisted the group be described as "controversial" instead. And, it disallowed the term "moderate Muslims" as it implied that Tablighi Jamaat was not moderate. I.T.V. would not even allow the group to be described as "controversial," although this would certainly appear to be an appropriate - if mild - term. Tablighi Jamaat is opposed to Muslims mixing with non-Muslims, and wants to separate their flock from Jews and Christians by - according to one of their advocates in Britain - creating, "such hatred for their ways as human beings have for urine and excreta."

Ten years ago, we would have laughed at a comedy sketch in which people were banned from describing hate mongers as "controversial." We would have laughed at a sketch of a student being arrested for calling a horse "gay." The lunacy of it all seems so Monty Python or Spitting Image, yet this is the reality of modern Britain.

But I wonder if bawdy, rowdy humor is not now being confined to the past, and along with it an entire way of thinking, and an effective weapon that has proved the best defense of common sense and ordinary people. Gone, it seems, is the type of politician that was feisty and unapologetic in the pursuit of liberty. Contrast Churchill - drinker, cigar smoker, and a man with a quick wit and sharp tongue - with those who embody modern politics - Gordon Brown, Jack Straw, Ken Livingstone, Tony Blair, or David Cameron - and one cannot help but feel that the future of Britain may be no laughing matter.



More than seven in 10 voters insist that they would not be willing to pay higher taxes in order to fund projects to combat climate change, according to a new poll.

The survey also reveals that most Britons believe "green" taxes on 4x4s, plastic bags and other consumer goods have been imposed to raise cash rather than change our behaviour, while two-thirds of Britons think the entire green agenda has been hijacked as a ploy to increase taxes.

The findings make depressing reading for green campaigners, who have spent recent months urging the Government to take far more radical action to reduce Britain's carbon footprint. The UK is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, a target that most experts believe will be difficult to reach. The results of the poll by Opinium, a leading research company, indicate that maintaining popular support for green policies may be a difficult act to pull off, and attempts in the future to curb car use and publicly fund investment in renewable resources will prove deeply unpopular.

The implications of the poll could also blow a hole in the calculations of the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, who was forced to delay a scheduled 2p-a-litre rise in fuel duty until the autumn in his spring Budget, while his plans to impose a showroom tax and higher vehicle excise duty on gas-guzzling cars will not take effect for a year. He is now under pressure to shelve the increase in fuel duty because of the steep rise in the price of oil.

The public's climate-change scepticism extends to the recent floods which inundated much of the West Country, and reported signs of changes in the cycle of the seasons. Just over a third of respondents (34 per cent) believe that extreme weather is becoming more common but has nothing to do with global warming. One in 10 said that they believed that climate change is totally natural.

The over-55s are most cynical about the effects of global warming with 43 per cent believing that extreme weather and global warming are unconnected.

Three in 10 (29 per cent) of all respondents would oppose any more legislation in support of green policies, while close to a third of citizens (31 per cent) believe that green taxes will have no discernible effect on the environment since people will still take long-haul flights regularly and drive carbon-heavy vehicles.

Mike Childs, the head of campaigns for Friends of the Earth, blamed the Government for generating a cynical response to "green taxes". "People do get cynical unless they see benefits," he said. "The Government is playing a dangerous game. They are using climate change to identify potential new taxes and revenues but the public aren't seeing anything in return. The public aren't being helped to go green. The Government could put a windfall tax on the big oil companies and use that money to insulate homes or introduce a feed-in tariff to pay people to produce renewable energy."

Mark Hodson, of Opinium Research, said: "Britain appears to be feeling increasingly negative about being more carbon neutral. We are questioning the truth behind being greener and many feel that Government is creating a green fear for monetary gain."

The findings were released as the Prince of Wales yesterday called on Britain's business leaders to take "essential action" to make their firms more sustainable. Speaking in central London to some of the country's leading chief executives, Prince Charles said: "What more can I do but urge you, this country's business leaders, to take the essential action now to make your businesses more sustainable. I'm exhausted with repeating that there really is no time to lose."

Also attending the May Day Business Summit, the Prime Minister promised the Government will set out a "credible" long-term policy framework to help industry develop innovative low-carbon, resource-efficient products and services. He outlined the recommendations of a report, Building a Low Carbon Economy, for creating a "green" economy, including "seeking to encourage changes in consumer behaviour".

Gordon Brown said: "We know that we will only succeed if individuals and communities, as well as Government and business, are part of the solution."

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, said: "The Government is committed to building a low-carbon economy, here and around the world. That means a complete change in the way we live and an economic transformation that will put Britain at the forefront of a technological revolution in the way we use and source our energy."

The research was conducted online amongst 2,002 adults by Opinium Research LLP between 11 and 14 April


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