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Stacking the odds


It's interesting that after nine years in the job, former environment minister - and honorary ICE fellow - Elliot Morley says has no idea why he was sacked from the job he loved.

The more that we hear about last week's cabinet reshuffle the more interesting the events surrounding it seem to become.

But bearing in mind the response from some quarters to my comments last week on this issue I should perhaps resist the temptation to go on about the government's current ministerial challenges.

I should perhaps resist the temptation to adopt an oversimplistic approach and put two and two together at the risk of making five not four.

And I should certainly give new Environment Secretary David Miliband time to get his feet under his desk before wading in.

Perhaps. But before I move onto ministerial challenges, I feel compelled to highlight through juxtaposition some interesting revelations this week. That way you can form you own view on the matters at hand.

Firstly it is very interesting that, now out of government, Morley has this week confirmed his opposition to any new programme of nuclear power generation in the UK on the grounds that 'its costs are gigantic'.

And coming so close to a post energy review decision by government on nuclear power it is equally interesting to see him add that if the government does its sums in 'an open and transparent way' he would be very surprised if it pressed ahead with such a plan.

So with this need for openness and transparency in mind it was interesting to learn this week about Miliband's financial and social links with a key pronuclear lobbyist.

He has of course denied any direct or improper contact with former MEP Alan Donnelly and we can do nothing other than take his word on the matter.

But, the revelation does serve to underline just how uncomfortably close the pronuclear lobby has become to 10 Downing Street. In particular, since the revelation broke just days after Tony Blair had specifically asked Miliband to join the energy review discussions through his new Office for Climate Change.

In the wake of Margaret Beckett's elevation from the Environment brief to run the Foreign Office it would appear that, despite Morley's views on the logical outcome of an open and transparent decision on energy, the cabinet's deck is being stacked.

If that is the case, it is a shame because Miliband is certainly something of an up and coming political figure, who, given time and support, should carve out quite a career. He is young, he is powerful and he knows that climate change is a massive political issue that really could drive his political career.

With this portfolio he really could help the UK to tackle the very serious issues facing and hindering our society's growth such as CO 2 emissions, energy generation, water supply and waste handling. But right now by being dragged into the mire of the nuclear energy lobby he comes across as just another ministerial stooge.

As Morley says 'we have a short window to make a difference' on climate change. The new Environment Secretary must be urged to lead the government away from the futile debate over nuclear power towards real action on how to really tackle this vital issue. Get that right and he'd deserve to be Blair's successor.

Antony Oliver is NCE's Editor

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