It should prove an interesting few days monitoring the reaction to the suggestion that environment minister David Milliband has outlined plans to his Cabinet colleagues for a new “green tax” to help combat climate change.

The idea itself ( obviously provides plenty of food for thought – if you manage to cut through the various comments and the spinning that is already taking place and look at what the government is actually proposing.

It is a comparatively bold move from a government department that has seemingly been more inclined to talk a good fight rather than follow through with cast-iron policies( and yet there are many who will maintain that it is still too little too late. 

Conversely, others will claim that the government has taken leave of its senses and is merely indulging in a “hearts and minds” campaign to win over wavering voters and grab some of the limelight back off David Cameron’s new-look (sic) Conservative party. The spinning will be vigorous on all sides – myself included, obviously, given that subtle little dig at the Blair-clone now in charge of the Tories these days (there I go again).

The lobbyists will now be working over-time, whatever their agenda. It is the behind-the-scenes negotiating and dealing that will define what happens in the next decade, not the policy announcements and photo-opportunities.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this supposed new push towards a green tax is the claim in The Guardian that former US Vice-President turned eco-warrior Al Gore has been drafted in to add weight to the government’s efforts. Having just scored a box office hit with his climate change docu-drama An Inconvenient Truth, Mr Gore has successfully re-invented himself as a green campaigner despite an abysmal record on environmental issues when he was deputy to the most powerful man on the planet.

To his credit, Mr Gore has acknowledged such failings and David Milliband will have an important ally. Mr Gore will be well versed in the world of the professional lobbyists, the world where the real decisions get taken.

We will get our insight in the coming days, mainly by reading between the lines on the various reactions and pronouncements on the proposed green tax.

It is often who is saying it that matters, not what they are saying – there’s nothing like a little Monday morning paranoia to gladden the heart of the average conspiracy theorist.

Although a work of fiction, Robert Newman’s excellent novel The Fountain at the Centre of the World gives a fascinating glimpse into globalisation and the work of the anonymous lobbyists acting on behalf of everyone from multi-nationals, to aid organisations to farmers’ co-operatives, to governments. It is the deal-makers and deal-breakers who often hold the key to what is eventually filtered down to the rest of us.

The book, of course, is also an unsubtle piece of spinning as it provides a platform for the anti-globalisation movement. However, it does provide a balance to much of the mainstream media coverage of issues such as trade agreements and events like the G8 summit.

The truth, as always, is out there and will take a bit of time and effort to locate.

In the meantime, look at who is saying something about climate change and the green tax and not necessarily what they are saying.


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