In London with Nick Clegg

Chris Sawer with Hilary Myers and Nick Clegg

Last week a group of us from Calder Valley went on a day trip to London to The Wave climate change protest. It involved getting the first train out of Hebden Bridge in the morning, and the last train back in the evening, but was a great trip for several reasons.

Firstly, the train down was organised by the Co-op, and apart from being very cheap, was full of others going to the protest so there were balloons galore, plenty of banter, and leafleters for every environmental campaign going wandering up and down the train. Not to mention some great musicians.

Secondly, we arrived at the protest at the same time as Nick Clegg, and we grabbed the chance of a quick chat with him about the campaign in Calder Valley. It was great to meet up with Lib Dems from all over the country to hear Nick’s speech, along with those of Susan Kramer and Simon Hughes. I recognised many faces from conference, and chatted to some new people too.

It was extremely important that we put pressure on the government ahead of the Copenhagen summit to make it clear that if we don’t do something drastic about CO2 emissions pretty soon, it will be too late for millions of people around the world – most of them in the poorest countries – who will die as a result of flooding, crop failures, or wars caused by the mass migration that will result.

In the light of recent speculation about e-mails at the University of East Anglia, it was also important to have a big demonstration to be shown on the news, and keep people informed that global warming is real, and that we must do something about it. It is clear that the overwhelming scientific consensus backs the hypothesis that the planet is heating up because of the greenhouse gases, principally CO2, that mankind is pumping into the atmosphere at ever increasing rates. There are a few sceptics, of course – critical thinking is essential for good science to be separated from bad – but pretty much everyone who has actually studied in a related area has come to the same view.

One analogy I heard and rather liked is that you’re about to get on a plane, and suddenly the pilot and an aeronautic engineer come running out and tell everybody not to get on board as the plane is too dangerous to fly. A vet and a dentist stroll to the front, announce that everything’s ok, and get on board. Who would you trust?

The march itself passed off well, although it was a bit slow getting started so it was more-or-less dark by the time we actually got to parliament. It was hard to get an idea of how many people were there, but estimates ranged from 20,000 to 40,000 which is not bad for a cold December day. I had my home-made Calder Valley Lib Dem placard, which attracted comment from a number of people.

One week on, I think Ed Miliband is doing a reasonable job in Copenhagen. Not as good as Simon Hughes would do, of course, but not too bad considering. I just hope he is able to persuade the other industrialised countries that it is our responsibility to lead on this issue. I know that China are building huge numbers of coal-fired power stations, but they’re only following our example. We led the industrial revolution in this country. Now it’s time for us to lead the green revolution too.

Why start this blog?

I moved to Hebden Bridge exactly two years ago today. When I moved, I would never have predicted that I’d be elected to the Town Council in less than a year, become chair of the local branch of Liberal Democrats, and campaign organiser for our Parliamentary candidate.

One of the things that frustrates me most about the Town Council is how little the community know and appreciate about what we do. All the councillors are volunteers, and (apart from the mayor) receive no allowances. Most of us give up lots of evenings to attend meetings and events, occasionally at our own expense. The media don’t seem interested – the local newspaper print our press releases more or less verbatim, and the local news website report what we do occasionally, but I have never seen a journalist at any of our meetings, not even the budget meeting where we decide how much council tax to collect from residents. Our annual ¬†turnover is around a quarter of a million pounds, hardly small change.

I have done my best to keep in touch with my own ward through Focus leaflets (which I’ve paid for), but they are expensive, slow to deliver, and only cover a small part of the council area. I’m hoping this blog will provide more information on what we do on a vaguely regular basis to whoever is interested. I’ll also comment on national issues that catch my eye, or that I have some involvement with.

Assuming that I follow my plan to publish articles once a week or so, and don’t just give up in boredom, I will begin to publicise the blog in early 2010. Readers’ comments are welcome!