Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Interviewing Ed Davey at the Social Liberal Forum conference

If, as Paul Walter suggested the other day, Ed Davey is the Liberal Democrats' climate change bulldog, then he is a very polite bulldog: a bulldog who is all over his brief as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

After interviewing Tim Farron, I met Ed Davey, along with Paul Walter, Caron Lindsay and Mathew Hulbert. We met in a cool room somewhere upstairs in Amnesty International's new headquarters during the Social Liberal Forum conference on Saturday.

If not a bulldog, then Ed was certainly bullish. He is clearly delighted with Liberal Democrats achievements under him, and Chris Huhne before him, at Energy.

He set these out - notably the increase in electricity generation from renewable sources - in a recent article for Liberal Democrat Voice.

One of the things we talked about was how we make the sure the party gets the credit it deserves for these achievements and take the campaign forward at the next election.

Ed believes we need a few clear points to emphasise and suggested, a little gnomically, that the energy policy our last conference passed gives the basis for this. I suggest you read it again carefully.

Paul Walter has given a full summary of what we talked about. You will see that I asked about nuclear power - as a Liberal of a certain age, I still find it hard to come to terms with our change of policy here, even if it a change that many prominent environmentalists have made too.

Others have not made it. When I told someone from Leicester Friends of the Earth about this interview, he suggested I ask Ed why we need a Civil Nuclear Constabulary but not a Civil Wind Farm Constabulary or Civil Solar Power Constabulary.

Ed reminded me that Chris Huhne had promised there would be no subsidy for nuclear power, as I suggested, but no special favours. The price nuclear generators are guaranteed may look high, but he believes it will look less so when the new capacity comes on stream.

Behind my faulty recall of Chris's promise lay a puzzlement that energy has to be subsidised at all. Aren't heat and power among the most basic of human needs with a guaranteed permanent demand?

That may explain why I shall never be Energy Secretary. Ed is - and a mightily impressive one too.

Perhaps his talents lie more in persuasion in small meetings than in platform oratory, but he is now an important figure in the party.
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