10am, Stafford station. It was very thoughtful of my parents and sister to stay in Stafford, which has a mainline train station and is therefore easy to both reach and leave, even on a Sunday morning. It won’t be so comfortable at the other end of the journey.
Enniskillen, of course, used to be a major railway junction itself, with trains to all parts of Ireland for business and pleasure. The Headhunters barber shop in the town doubles as railway museum, and is well worth a visit for anyone seeking inspiration as to what could regenerate the economies of border counties. (Hint: the answer isn’t fracking.) Despite the insistence of the Executive parties that all that matters is road-building, it’s no coincidence that the most prosperous parts of the UK, such as the affluent suburbs of London, have the most comprehensive and heavily subsidised public transport. The day after tomorrow I’m going to a workshop in Dungannon about renewable energy and public transport: it will be interesting to see what initiatives are bubbling under the surface, and how I as the local MP would be able to support and encourage them.
Meanwhile, as I check the departures board, I hear a man talking to his companion behind me.
“The National Trust have the most evil bunch of lawyers and accountants. The only ones worse are probably the wildlife trusts.”
This is bizarre, but oddly encouraging. Presumably either the man is a hardcore eco-anarchist or he faciliates a developer in some way. The glimpse of grey suit I see from the corner of my eye suggests the latter, but I don’t turn around. The NT and the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust must be doing something right, though. You don’t get called evil without either being a serial killer or getting under someone’s corporate skin. I was talking to the National Trust’s Northern Ireland director recently about its position on fracking; I think she might appreciate this.
As our train pulls out of the station, passing the back of my primary school and the wild-bird-friendly Doxey Marshes (maybe it’s the SWT’s new hide there that has enraged the suited man), a jolly voice welcomes us in a pre-school TV programme tone of manic jubilation.
“Hel-Lo and welcome to Virgin Trains! Today we’ll be travelling to….” The suspense is double-cream-thick, like wondering which window they’d choose on Playschool. “…. Liverpool Lime Street!” That’s all right, then. It’s five minutes late, but we don’t lose any more time, and make the connection in Crewe.
1pm, Holyhead. It’s windy here, and as the ferry sets off, we’re given a warning of a moderate sea-state, which will apparently require the huge Irish Ferries Ulysses to use its stablisers. I imagine Neptune rising from the Irish Sea to give us a push, like a dad giving bike lessons. It’s getting bumpy already, though; I think I’ll get this finished as soon as I can.
I spent the train ride reading more of the Naomi Klein book, in between gazing out of the window at the beautiful North Wales
coast, enhanced off Colwyn Bay by a cluster of dignified white wind turbines. It’s very well-written and readable, so I haven’t been tempted away from it yet by my other book, Anthony King and Ivor Crewe’s The Blunders of Our Governments, though I’m looking forward to that too. A few years ago I read Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, which was a revelation to me, and which I wrote about at length on another blog. This time there haven’t been any major issues which I haven’t known about, but the degree of detail and examples make this book a marvellous resource. So far I’m in agreement with all her arguments, and reassured by the experts she’s consulted, especially Professor Kevin Anderson, with whom I talked about fracking and climate change at an event in Stormont a couple of years ago.
One especially apposite chapter tells the story of Richard Branson and his much-publicised ‘pledge’in 2006 to spend three billion dollars over the next decade to battle climate change. Eight years through the ten, we’ve seen the massive expansion of his airline, the space tourism wheeze of Virgin Galactic and the transformation of a carbon-sequestering challenge into a huge boost for the tar sands industry but, er, not much of the three billion. It isn’t that Branson is uniquely bad or green-washed, just that the idea of what he called “Gaia capitalism”, the corporate world saving us from its own greed and destruction is, like the deceptions of the carbon market, the gestures of philantropist billionaires and the follies of geo-engineering, a species of magical thinking. As Gus Speth says, “A reliably green company is one that is required to be green by law”. Not by the whisper of increased profits, or by its PR consultants, or by any cosy scheme of self-regulation. And to get those laws passed, we need reliably green elected representatives. That, I hope, is where we come in.