This government has nothing but a bunch of useless stunts

The late Kim Jong Il once claimed to have personally achieved cold fusion, as long as two decades ago, so it is a mystery why the world’s energy problems have still not gone away

Tom Peck
Friday 31 March 2023 12:38 BST
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It is rare for global leaders to be photographed standing near nuclear fusion reactors, because they know that the metaphors will write themselves.

Whoever made the decision to have Rishi Sunak and Grant Shapps head off to Oxfordshire and announce their plans for net zero in front of humanity’s longest-running pipe dream was presumably the same person who worked out, soon after, that it would probably also be best that no speech should be made, and no moving pictures should emerge for use on television.

Cold fusion has been 10 years away for about the last 50. There’s a super-hot tokamak just outside Oxford that has been built to recreate what goes on inside the sun, using very hot plasma, in the hope that one day more energy might come out of it than went in, whereupon all humankind’s worries will end in an infinite flurry of abundant, squeaky green power.

The late Kim Jong Il once claimed to have personally achieved cold fusion, as long as two decades ago, so it is a mystery why the world’s energy problems have still not gone away.

Such a thing happened – kind of – in the States not that long ago, but with very large numbers of very large caveats. Cynics might say (and indeed did say) that they had spent several billion dollars boiling a kettle. But, well, haven’t we all these days?

This was also the first big outing for Shapps, who is head of the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ). People in Whitehall pronounce it “Disney”, so full marks, really, to whoever decided to send the boss to Oxfordshire to wish upon a star.

In the build-up to the event, Whitehall and Downing Street officials became very worried that the series of announcements on energy policies was being given the moniker “Green Day”.

The public are overwhelmingly in favour of decarbonising the economy as quickly as possible, having a frankly parochial desire not to burn their children alive, but a very committed bunch of deranged Tory MPs don’t agree. So, naturally, this ends with the government being terrified of doing anything the people might want, for fear of upsetting too many of its own backbenchers.

This sort of thing should, frankly, annoy the public more than it does. But it’s not as if they haven’t been given plenty of warning, and they do keep voting for these people anyway.

One of these people, naturally, is Andrew Bridgen, so it is arguably unfair to use the term “deranged Tory MP” on the basis that Bridgen is now so deranged that he’s been made to sit as an independent. Nevertheless, he still uses his lofty pulpit over public life to espouse such sermons as “Anthony Fauci created Covid”, and other such things he has plucked from either his arse, his elbow or the internet, to name just three things between which he is sadly unable to differentiate.

Anyway, government spokespeople are very, very keen indeed to stress the “Energy Security” part over the “Net Zero” part, for fear of upsetting too many of the 60 or so people in the country who think net zero is a bad idea – all of whom, unfortunately, are Tory MPs.

They really would rather attention were focused on the new plans for £20bn worth of investment in carbon capture and storage, which is a huge amount of money and – don’t panic guys – still involves burning enormous amounts of fossil fuels.

It’s possible that Sunak knows he doesn’t necessarily have enough time to save the world, which is why, with every passing day, his government evolves ever more into government by way of sleight-of-hand stunt.

There’s the big plan for more free childcare, which he must surely know is going to fall apart on contact with the actual existing childcare sector, and – according to his own timetable – almost certainly become a different government’s problem to deal with.

There’s the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda, which, like cold fusion, never quite seems to happen (and if it ever does, almost certainly won’t be a real solution anyway). Some scientists spent £3bn boiling a kettle. Sunak has spent £120m and counting on deporting to Rwanda a maximum of 300 asylum seekers a year.

There’s the plan to tackle antisocial behaviour by, wait for it, making laughing gas a class-C drug; a policy so stupid that it might actually be successful, in the sense that who needs nitrous oxide any more when you can just laugh at Suella Braverman instead?

The real answers are, sadly, more boring. They don’t lie inside a fake star in a field in Oxfordshire.

They require insulating people’s homes, just like a bright young chancellor called Rishi Sunak promised to do three years ago when he dreamt up the green homes grant scheme, which turned out to be quite possibly the most pointless and least effective government initiative this century (actually, that’s not fair; that title definitely goes to the plan for an official Royal Mint NFT, which was quietly scrapped yesterday, about 18 months after Sunak had announced it).

But he knows there isn’t time to do the boring stuff, so government by absolute stunts it is. You’d think he’d have worked out that people have had more than enough of that by now.

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