Alan Simpson's Blog

COP26 and ‘The Great Law of Peace’

Don’t blame them; the sherpas, the civil servants and Ministers. They did their best, struggling to get commitments (rather than conditional brackets) out of COP26 negotiations. Surviving on caffeine and little sleep, they genuinely tried to get something meaningful past fossil fuel lobbyists and national vetoes. In the end, everyone had something to grumble about.…

Living in the Overshoot

“Don’t choose extinction”. This was the simple advice offered by a dinosaur in the UN’s CGI video message to global leaders. The question is whether any have the sense to heed it. The chaotic upheavals surrounding Glasgow’s COP26 gathering suggest the message is not getting through fast enough. To be fair, there were hopeful signs.…

Keystone COPout

Sometimes there are events that make you rail in anger. Others make you weep. Reading the government’s plethora of ‘net zero’ policy papers ahead of November’s COP26 climate conference, I could barely hold back the tears. It wasn’t their lack of ambition but the absence of a route map (with sufficient resources and urgency) that…

Men (and Women) in Dark Times

In her book Men in Dark Times, the philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the notion of inner emigration. What was it that stood in the way of so many prominent/influential people challenging the rise of Hitlerism or organising escape routes from it? From the biographies she explored, Arendt concluded that many found the external realities of…

Are local authorities equipped to reach net zero?

Are local authorities equipped to reach net zero? “Only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in this decade can prevent climate breakdown” – Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Advisor. This Inquiry could not be more timely or important. Before the last election, I set up scientific briefings for MPs calling for a step…

Willing the Ends, Willing the Means

The ‘Sun Ship’ (Das Sonnenschiff) is a small community in the Vauban district of Freiburg. Built in 2004, it is one of the earliest examples of ‘energy-plus’ housing; developments that generate more electricity than the community itself consumes. Powered entirely by solar energy (and storage), and designed to high standards of natural heating and cooling,…

The Turning Point

Something big is happening; really big. All the pillars of smug certainty are beginning to crumble. Nothing captured this more than the ‘waste’ sculpture taunting the G7 Summit in Cornwall. The ‘Mount Recyclemore’ sculpture – made from dumped e-waste materials – symbolised far more than the 53 million tonnes of electronic goods the world throws…

Net-zero, not-zero and ground-zero

What a mess we are in. Labour loses the Hartlepool by- election with a 16% swing to the Tories. A new North-South divide is opening up. With the exception of London, Labour no longer holds the hearts and minds of its conventional heartlands. So much for new leadership, new vision. What on earth is going…

Antigonish Labour?

Labour is lost. I say this in sadness more than anger. Anger is no substitute for answers. It clouds the fact that the Left could be just as lost as the Right. Boris Johnson has bought himself some ill-deserved credibility; slowly loosening the lockdown rules and stepping up the vaccination programme. Both are welcome. But…

Tony Benn: Still our Man for all Seasons

I find it hard to accept it is 7 years since Tony Benn died. I miss his wisdom, foresight, kindness and humour. Worse still, whether the country realises it or not, we are all the poorer for the loss of Benn’s political acumen and vision. Faced with some of the biggest existential challenges in human…

Bert versus the Dismantled State

We do ourselves no favours by treating the current Policing Bill just as an outrageous assault on a public right to protest. It is…Of course it is. But the violence targeted towards the police in Bristol (and the preceding violence by police themselves towards peaceful protesters) masks the scale of the assault on civil liberties…

The Disunited Kingdom – Radical federalism and the search for a new common-wealth

  Do not underestimate the scale of the democratic crisis facing Britain. Don’t kid yourselves either that it isn’t going to get a lot, lot worse. Brexit opened up wounds that will not easily heal. Mythical claims, wrapped up in sovereignty and identity politics, looked a lot different when viewed from the rotting mounds of…

We, the People – The case for Radical Federalism

Radical constitutional reform is no longer an option, it is an unavoidable necessity. The internal conflicts within the structure of the UK must be resolved. This paper is a contribution to the start of that debate, and sets out the reasons for reform, the principles upon which any future reform should be based, and the process for getting there.

Let them eat what?

Governments fall more often from let-downs than lock-downs. That’s why Marcus Rashford’s ‘end child food-poverty’ campaign has thrown British politics into a tiz. Who would have thought a young, black footballer would provide the leadership politics seems to lack. Although Rashford consistently says “This is not about politics: it is about humanity,” everyone understands the…

Beware a Covid Coalition

Britain’s ‘4 week national lockdown’ will not halt the rate at which Tory pandemic planning falls apart. Privately, there are calls for a ‘Grand Coalition’, a Government of National Unity to save the country. For Labour (and Britain) it would be the Kiss of the Spider Woman; something to be avoided as much as Covid…