Last month, in a paper scarcely anyone has noticed, the Treasury announced that it is closing England’s regional assemblies. The assemblies gave civil society (represented by local authorities and NGOs) a statutory means of restraining the regional development agencies, which are led by corporations. The assemblies drew up the regional spatial strategies, which spell out the kind of development a region needs, including its transport links.
Without public debate, this role has now been given to the regional development agencies. The businesses that run them will always demand more roads and more airports (not least because their construction provides lucrative contracts) and there is now no statutory way of challenging them. The purpose of such changes is spelt out by the Treasury with breathtaking frankness: “to deliver accountability to business.”
This coup against the wider public interest is consistent with Brown’s strategy so far: to talk about a renewal of values, then to appoint the former head of the CBI as minister for trade and investment; to make bold speeches about entrusting more power to parliament, then to rush out 76 policy announcements as parliament goes into recess; to pose as a critical friend of the US president, then to agree to host his missile defence programme without parliamentary debate. Gordon Brown is beginning to look more autocratic than Tony Blair.
Oh, we can keep signing our petitions and writing our letters to MPs and making earnest appeals to common sense, but we know that we will be fobbed off until it is too late to prevent runaway climate change. Only those who have not grasped the implications could argue that the need to avoid disrupting a few holiday flights outweighs the need to reverse the growth in aviation.
By joining the climate camp at Heathrow next week, you will be making a stand not only against climate change, but also against the attempt by BAA to stop people from agitating for a better world. What began as an environmental demonstration has now also become a protest for democracy. I will be there. What about you?
You can find the article published on Monbiot’s own website with footnotes and links.