Friday, 11 February 2011

Forests: The first government u-turn?

I previously blogged here about the UK government's plan to sell off Forestry Commission woodland. Well, the government has now decided to put plans on-hold, a sign that a u-turn on the issue could be looming.

I want to know what has successfully pressured the government in making this decision, and what lessons can be learnt for other campaigns:

1) The policy wasn’t staunchly ideological
Remember the Conservative vote is traditionally held in rural areas, and there’s a danger this policy could outrage their own country bumpkins. The green spaces of England are heritage for everyone, and a public consensus could be heard in the Question Time studio a few weeks back. I’ve never heard such cheering and agreement amongst the audience.

2) Reputable celebrity backers
When an issue is less ideologically sensitive, more celebrities will rally round. Fact. Judi Dench, Bill Bryson, Annie Lenox, Ranulph Fiennes, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury – Dr. Rowan Williams put their name to a letter in the Sunday Telegraph calling the proposals ill-conceived. And you know when the Telegraph is publishing sentiments against the government, there’s something brewing...

3) Successful, organised campaign and petition
We should not forget the role of 38degrees in this campaign to save the forests. They’ve clocked up over 50,000 signatories, including mine. This is a demonstration of people power, people organising over the internet. There’s been some favourable coverage of this group too, on TV shows such as ‘10 o’clock live’. The interesting thing is, this group is not just campaigning against the government’s plans for the Forestry Commission. It’s also collecting signatories against human trafficking, against political interference in BSKYB investigation, and against NHS reforms. And this leads me nicely to my last thought...

Why are people bothered about our green spaces being sold off, but less bothered about saving the NHS? Less bothered about ensuring everyone has the same right to free healthcare? Perhaps the NHS is fair-game for ideological struggles, but we could do with some celebrity backers right now for this one.

1 comment:

Dan @ Eyes on Power said...

I wouldn't agree that the policy isn't ideological. It probably doesn't fit within traditional conservatism, but it certainly fits within a neo-liberal/Washington consenus school of thought. Like all of the government's policies - from the Big Society, ripping apart the NHS and now this - the primary motivation is reducing the size of the state and increasing the private realm.

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