Analysis: Porritt whispers in PM's ear with all the force he can muster
Tuesday 07 March 2006
Listen to yesterday's Sustainable Development Commission report on nuclear power and you will hear something uncommon, fascinating and slightly awe-inspiring: the sound of a big beast in the environmental jungle, getting his retaliation in first.
Jonathon Porritt has come a long way since he was one of the founders of the Ecology Party (which subsequently became the Green Party), and then leader of Friends of the Earth. Now, as chair of the SDC, and Tony Blair's official environmental adviser, he is part of the government establishment.
But only to a degree. Sir Jonathon may be an Etonian by schooling and a baronet by title but he has remained radical in his green convictions, and one of those, which he shares with most other environmentalists, is that no good whatsoever can come of nuclear power.
He clearly sees the current Energy Review as a stitch-up, a cosmetic exercise to prepare the way for a new generation of nukes, and let's be honest, many would agree with him. The common perception is Tony Blair has taken the decision already.
But unlike most green activists, Sir Jonathon can actually do something about it. His position at the head of the SDC gives him direct access to Mr Blair and potentially enormous influence, and in certain circumstances, he has to be listened to. This is one of those circumstances, and he is making the most of it. He's not waiting for the outcome of the Energy Review; he's making a determined attempt to sway the result.
Yesterday's SDC report and accompanying papers represent the most thorough, hard-hitting and detailed case against the British nuclear option which has yet been produced. This is not green soundbite, this is serious stuff. It will have to weigh in the argument. It certainly raises dramatically the political stakes for Mr Blair - and for Mr Brown when he takes over - in opting for atomic power once again.
Mr Blair has never been anti-nuclear (he likes shiny modern technology). But he has been especially persuaded of the necessity of a full new nuclear-build programme to fight climate change, by the Government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King. Sir David has been whispering in one Blair ear; Sir Jonathon is now whispering in the other, although perhaps whispering hardly does justice to the force of yesterday's report.
The reason Sir Jonathon may ultimately not succeed is that the detail of the arguments against nuclear, displayed so powerfully yesterday, is not what is going to count. Few people would dispute that there is no solution yet to nuclear waste, or that nuclear economics are uncertain, or that a nuclear programme would partially lock the UK into a centralised energy system, or that there is a major security risk associated with nuclear energy. It's all true.
But the essence of the argument Sir David King has put to Mr Blair is that climate change is so threatening that nuclear is essential despite all that.
But you can't say the other side of it hasn't been made properly now, in the struggle between David and Jonathon for the ear of the Prime Minister.
Portraits of Peru: Why supermodel Helena Christensen returned to her roots
Drug-resistant bacteria: Sewage-treatment plants described as giant 'mixing vessels' after scientists discover mutated microbes in British river
African countries set for new fight over ivory sales
The top 10 weirdest animal mating rituals
The ugliest animals on earth: Blobfish, axolotl and proboscis monkey battle it out to be named least attractive beast
- 1 I was a Woman Against Feminism too
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 4 The Tory donor whose firm is one of Britain’s biggest tax avoiders - with HMRC's blessing
- 5 John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...
£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...