Last night’s Newsnight had an excellent report on the occupation at Vestas, complete with an interview with one of the workers and coverage of a demonstration . It correctly highlighted the exciting, though not nearly as unprecedented as the report suggests, alliance of organised workers and green groups. However, the interview afterwards was an exercise in issue dodging. Ed Miliband was confronted with a representative from Greenpeace (hardly at the radical end of the environmental movement at the moment), and someone from an anti wind-farm campaign in Northamptonshire. The Greenpeace bloke flickered from supine to vacuous, at one point blaming the legacy of ‘previous Climate Secretaries’ rather than criticise the man sat in front of him.
Miliband was allowed to get away with the claim that he ‘could not interfere in Vestas’ economic decision’. He claimed the government had offered money to Vestas, but they had refused it; it was a business decision. He wasn’t challenged on this by anyone. Except, the workers aren’t asking the Government to toss money at Vestas, they are asking them to nationalise it. Only a few weeks ago the government nationalised the East Coast mainline after National Express decided to stop operating it. According to Lord Adonis this was to “ensure continuity of service to passengers, with no disruption or diminution of service standards”. Of course, this was the right decision, to stop chaos on the railways. Yet when it comes to this industry, despite all the pledges of green jobs, all the rhetoric on climate change, there is apparently nothing the government can do.
Of course, had the right person been in the studio they could have pointed this out. Instead the discussion got diverted into planning laws, and local democracy, with Miliband simply wringing his hands. At one point he comments, apparently without irony, that ‘change is hard to achieve in politics’. This may be true for environmental activists, but this is a fucking secretary of state! The real reason he won’t nationalise Vestas is because it involves pointing out the elephant in the room, i.e. that nationalisation is a serious option, to protect jobs and industry, and that there is so much more the government could do to combat the recession.