Thursday, 18 December 2008

Insulation - dull! Rail - cool!

I was about to break my blogging drought with a piece about how our Roll back Beeching could really catch people's imagination and should be the centre of any February 2009 General Election campaign but I see that Nick Clegg has just launched the Green Road out of the Recession. The main points in the order used are:

  • A five-year programme to insulate every school and hospital, with 20% completed in the first year
  • Funding insulation and energy efficiency for a million homes, with a £1,000 subsidy for a million more
  • Building 40,000 extra zero-carbon social houses
  • Buying 700 new train carriages
  • Reopening old railway lines and stations, opening new ones, electrifying the Great Western and Midland mainlines and beginning the Liverpool light rail network
  • Installing energy and money saving smart meters in every home within five years

These are all good solid actions but are, I would argue, in the wrong order. Whilst insulation and energy efficiency are all well and good, they are not exactly headline items that will set the public alight with debate.

I would say they fit too easily into the dull and worthy mould of people's expectations of the LibDems and is the kind of thing people expect us to say that allows them to safely switch off and ignore without fear of missing anything.

Our proposals on new rail however (the fog of the MSM notwithstanding) could get people talking as it's something they can see would have a positive effect on their everyday lifes. Regardless of any money- or planet-saving benefits of better insulation, new and better rail would actually make peoples' lifes better and improve their wellbeing and more importantly people will see that.

Also, I think the issue of rail is one those issues that feeds into the public's disaffection with politicians in that the public can see something so glaringly obvious that needs sorting with such an obvious upside to a solution which they also think will get overwhelming public support, they can't understand why the politicians never do anything about it (or maybe it's just me who gets annoyed). Labour have been in for 11 years and have not even tried to fix something that's obviously rubbish and blights so many people's daily lifes.

I think there is pent up frustration here that we could tap in to.

I think, the proposals on zero-carbon social houses (whilst less sexy) do fall somewhat into this camp as tightening enery efficiency rules on new builds (we should do this for all new builds) is such a no-brainer, I think some people (well me) don't understand why it hasn't been done. I believe something similar was in the Labour 1997 manifesto but was dropped in short order by Blair when they got in.

In summary, I think the rail proposals should be the headline and the other more boring bits should be there in support to show we have a full programme if asked.

Why not try and make this a central issue? The establishment parties can't (and won't) compete on this issue (and if they do, even better for the country) and I'm sure we'd have overwhelming public support on this.

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