Thursday, 8 August 2013

 EU politics: gone fishing 

 Thursday 8 August 2013
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The little Englanders on the Daily Telegraph who offer us the wisdom of DEFRA minister Lord de Mauley on the front page today might have been better advised if they had read Saarbrücker Zeitunglast March.

Currently, this English paper is retailing the ambitions of the Conservative minister in the waste reduction department. But, like so many of his breed, de Mauley is ostensibly instructing us plebs on our lifestyle choices, without in the least acknowledging the complexities of the issue.

Thus, by de Mauley, we "householders" are told we should repair our broken televisions, toasters, and washing machines or buy second-hand replacements as part of a national effort to cut waste – not that one was aware that there was a "national effort" on waste reduction, or anything else for that matter.

But what we saw in Saarbrücker Zeitung was the claim that much consumer equipment would not need to be discarded if it wasn't for the deliberate strategies of consumer goods manufacturers – who engineer their equipment to fail after a limited period of use.

At the time, I recall some excellent commentary on the forum, addressing my bête noir, the "disposable" electric kettle. The discussion added to our knowledge but also showed how complex the issue really was.

By coincidence, having been forced last week to buy a new camera to replace lost equipment, I did have the option of sending a barely-used spare back to the manufacturer for repair.  After only a few outings, it had developed a fault. But the repair charge was actually more than the cost of a new camera of better specification.

Thus, it is all very well for de Mauley to prattle – and, unfortunately, that is what he appears to be doing. And the Telegraph does us no service by giving his views a wider airing.

But actually, we have to look a little deeper to find that this is not the personal opinions of the noble Lord. Rather, the story marks the launch of a consultation document on waste reduction. And there, we are told, we are dealing with part of "the Government's Waste Prevention Programme for England".

So far so good, you might think, but then we discover that the programme "takes forward a commitment in the Government Review of Waste Policy in England 2011" which, crucially, "fulfils a requirement of the revised Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) to develop a comprehensive Waste Prevention Programme for England". And this must be published by December 2013.

In other words, we are being lectured by a government minister, in the vapid, tactless way that our masters so often chose when addressing the lower orders, simply because his masters in Brussels have required him so to do.

And strangely, although the DEFRA consultation document is up-front about the EU origins of this initiative, you have to scrutinise the Telegraph fairly carefully to discover the true origins of the de Mauley vapourings.

This really is classic "little Englander" stuff, where the newspaper cannot bring itself to report the implementation of an EU law unless it can "plant a flag" on the story, and use a British minister to front it.

A more honest headline is thus needed to replace the: "Householders should make do and mend to cut waste, says Tory minister". This should read, "Brussels tells householders to ... ", or some such. But then that would require a level of journalistic integrity that we are not going to get from British (or any) newspapers.

There, of course, is a role for UKIP to tell us the real story - should it be able to tear itself away from its "bongo-bongo land" crisis. Like its leader, though, this useless party seems to have gone fishing.


Richard North 08/08/2013