This week saw New Labour’s Gordon Brown and Tory leader David Cameron arguing over their “visions” of how to save the planet. The truth is that neither of them has a solution to the climate change crisis.
Some of the measures they suggested could, if fully implemented, go some way to tackling global warming – for instance, legally binding carbon dioxide emission targets.
But neither Brown nor Cameron is willing to put forward the fundemental shifts required. Neither supports the renationalisation of public transport so that people can travel cheaply and move away from relying on their cars.
Neither will build new eco-friendly council homes, or prevent property developers from dictating policy on housing design and insulation.
As long as climate change plans focus on individual choices and shy away from regulating big business, the problem will continue.
The truth of the matter is that you can’t save the planet by making sure your telly isn’t on standby. We need a new set of priorities – and a new system – that puts the planet before profit.
Tax scams for the rich
In a tribute to the regime for the rich which Tony Blair has entrenched in Britain, there are now a record 54 billionaires in the country – 34 of them living in London.
They have come from across the world to take advantage of Gordon Brown’s “welcome to rich scroungers” tax rules.
Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network was spot on when he said, “The super-rich are drawn to live in Britain, regardless of where their business is located, by its unusual ‘non domicile’ tax rules. These allow foreign-born wealthy individuals to live here, but avoid paying income tax.”
In 1997 Labour promised it would change these rules. Instead they have protected the loopholes. This helps to explain why Britain’s 54 billionaires paid just £14.7 million to the Inland Revenue last year.
If people on benefits or asylum seekers managed to get away with such scams, there would be rants from the government and posters everywhere warning of dire consequences. As it is, New Labour celebrates such obscene wealth as a sign of “success”.
PFI is neoliberal dogma
The madness of the government’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme was revealed again this week. The department of trade and industry (DTI) had signed a contract with Laser to construct new buildings for the National Physical Laboratory in London.
But in 2004 Laser realised it did not have the financial capacity to complete the project. Despite this, the DTI paid Laser £75 million for its share in the new buildings. The project cost the DTI £140 million and delays of five years.
This whole project symbolises what’s wrong with PFI. The government hands billions of pounds to private companies to build public facilities such as hospitals and schools. The privateers hold the lease on the buildings, allowing them to rake in more money.
All this would have been far cheaper had the government built the new labs itself – but that would have gone against its neoliberal dogma.