...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day 2431: Two bans or NOT two bans?


The Grauniad newspaper, if I may call it that, reports two bans today: a Conservatory Ban and a Liberal Democrat Ban.

Of course, what the Grauniad calls a "ban" may not be the same as what you or I might call a ban. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

This is ironic because their headline "Lib Dem plan to ban petrol-driven cars" appears over a story that ACTUALLY says the Liberal Democrats want all cars to run on non-carbon-emitting technology by the year 2040, giving people a mere THIRD-OF-A-CENTURY to phase out the use of petrol and diesel engines and replace them with hydrogen fuel cells or efficient electric engines.

In fact, the Liberal Democrat target is to persuade Europe to go for zero carbon emissions that would only apply to NEW CARS from 2040.

This plan is "banning" petrol cars is THE SAME WAY that diesel cars were "banned" in 2006 – oh, you didn't notice that? That is because diesel cars were NOT "banned", but from 2006 all new diesel engines had to comply with the European Union's EuroIV emissions standard.

And this is only ONE SMALL PART of a much larger set of proposals that would see the whole of Great Britain move towards becoming Carbon Neutral by 2050!

The Liberal Democrat plan is one of SUPPORTING people though the necessary changes, NOT IMPOSING change upon them.

Introducing proper carbon pricing schemes; nurturing innovation and technological solutions; and encouraging changes in behaviour like improving energy efficiency and local green power generation – the Liberal Democrats want to show people the way forwards, bring them along with us, and demonstrate that we can get through this together.

The United Kingdom may only make a small contribution to global warming though our emissions, but we can lead by example and offer help to other countries, especially in the developing world.

Banning things is usually a BAD IDEA; the Liberal Democrats have a BETTER ANSWER.

Bearing this in mind, you cannot NECESSARILY believe it when the Grauniad is also saying: "Balloon hints at ban on violent video games".

Banning "violent computer games" (merely the latest incarnation of "banning video nasties", "banning loud music" and "banning those disgusting pamphlets from France") is an OLD FASHIONED Conservatory "Dog Whistle". It says to the CORE VOTE: "Ugh, how horrid!"

This line has been trotted out time and again, claimed as the solution to all the ills of the world and every analysis shows that it makes not one jot of difference.

If anything, there may be a case for saying that video gaming actually REDUCES people's aggression – if the evidence of increased levels of happiness hormone SEROTONIN in gamers is true. And if people are so addicted to EverQuest that they cannot even remember to EAT then they are hardly likely to be out on the streets shooting holes in each other!

But is this ALL that there is to Mr Balloon's announcement today?

Let's see what he SAYS:

Condemning "knee-jerk" responses, Mr Balloon said:

"Yes, tough laws, strong action on the police, but also action to strengthen our society. And that includes, I think, video games and things like that where we do need to think of the context in which people are growing up."
No, nothing "knee-jerk" at all about blaming computer games, there.

But seriously, this IS part of something bigger.

Following on from several particularly nasty crimes with guns, people are – as usual – crying out that "something must be done" and Mr Balloon is trying to provide them with an answer.

He does actually say that the problem is broader than just ONE-DIMENSIONAL solutions offered by the government, and claims to be offering a "mini-manifesto" on crime.

This OUGHT to be deserving of some serious analysis and NOT just be reduced to a headline that makes the Conservatories look like they are heading back to the authoritarian Eighties.

Except that this IS Mr Balloon and he's only looking for an excuse to bang on about his "Broken Britain" soundbite again. He's not offering real answers, only looking for an excuse to get on a bandwagon. Which is not terribly tasteful, under the circumstances.

The Government DOES make far too much of just passing yet ANOTHER law as though this will solve things, but in making suggestions of gun amnesties and community schemes, the Home Secretary Ms Jacqui Spliff is being far from one-dimensional.

The "solutions" that Mr Balloon wants to offer – stronger "traditional families", stricter licensing laws, longer prison sentences – are both impractical and nostalgic. You cannot bribe people to stay married (certainly not with a tenner a week) and nor can you cut the early release scheme without the prisons bursting at the seams. But you CAN hearken back to the ILLUSORY golden age of Conservatory Patrician politics when the Old Etonians knew what was best for the rest of us hoi polloi.

Ultimately, what is WRONG with Mr Balloon is that he is offering solutions to the WRONG PROBLEM.

When he says:

"Above all we must fight back against the attitude that treats rising crime as inevitable,"
…he is verging on the HILARIOUS.

Crime is at the BOTTOM of a FIFTEEN-YEAR-LONG DECLINE. The people with the attitude that "rising crime is inevitable" are – ironically – Mr Balloon and his Conservatory chums.

There are a LOT of stories of gun crime in the news at the moment – but how much of that is BECAUSE gun crime is in the news at the moment? Certainly, horrible shootings of innocent eleven-year-olds would ALWAYS make the headlines, but would ALL the reported incidents of shots being fired be given this prominence if it wasn't a HOT TOPIC?

FEAR of crime vastly eclipses actual incidence of crime. And Mr Balloon is only FUELLING that FEAR – and for entirely selfish reasons too!

A headline that reduces this backwards, right-wing, inward looking failure of policy and imagination to "Conservatories want to ban computer games" is as SILLY as one that describes forward looking Liberal Democrat policies on climate change as "Let's Ban Cars".

Banning things is what the Labour does.

Perhaps the Grauniad has forgotten that, right or wrong, the opposition parties do things differently.

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