A principled non-resignation

Does Trudy Harrison still think opponents of the coal mine are in cloud cuckoo land?

In Armando Iannucci’s satire In the Loop, a film about the build-up to the Iraq war, fictional American general George Miller spends the entire film agreeing with his close political confidant Karen Clark (played by Mimi Kennedy) that they would both resign if the US went to war. But when a UN decision means military action seem inevitable Miller explains to Clark, just after she herself quits, why he’s changed his mind on the pact:

This has been the hardest political decision of my career. I’m not going to resign. Before the war I was going to resign but now there’s a war on I can’t resign… It is intolerable, but I’m going to have to tolerate it, and I still agree with myself on that.

On a completely unrelated note, the Prime Minister’s PPS Trudy Harrison, whose Copeland constituency was expecting to gain the first new coal mine in Britain for decades, has reportedly decided not to resign over the Government’s (expected) decision to cancel the planned excavation. Harrison had previously described opponents of the new deep coal mine in West Cumbria as being in “cloud cuckoo land.”

Cumbria county council approved the site in October and the government confirmed the decision in January.  But yesterday, days after Cabinet minister Alok Sharma said the coal mine row was a “local issue”, the Government took the decision away from the council arguing that something had changed since the green light was given: the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations for the 6th Carbon Budget were published (I imagine Red Wall Tory voters are poring over it as we speak). The department is now organising a public consultation on the issue and will make the final decision after that. The public consultation will definitely be the key thing in the decision which will be taken.

Mike Starkie, the Tory mayor of Copeland, said the 500 promised well paid jobs, with at least 500 more in the supply chain, would have been hugely welcome to a remote town that never recovered from pit closures in the 1980s. And added that ninety per cent of local people supported the planned mine.

Workington MP Mark Jenkinson, whose constituency is next door, was scathing last night saying the decision “represents a complete reversal of the position taken just 8 weeks ago [by Government], and a capitulation to climate alarmists.” He says the council was about to issue permission before the Government snatched away the decision.

It has been suggested that the Government doesn’t want to be embarrassed over the mine when the UN Climate Change conference comes to Glasgow in November. US Climate envoy John Kerry told Newsnight when he was in Britain recently that “dirty coal” is not the future. It’s unknown what the Aspinall Foundation’s incoming head of communications, and sometime advisor to marine conservation activists Oceana thinks about all this. But as we know, she is both a political professional in her own right, who would be working as advisor in No 10, were she was not living in and redecorating it, and exerts no improper political influence. We’ve been told this point very clearly by her friends, several of whom are not even on the public payroll yet.

So where does this leave Trudy Harrison? Will she make the hardest political decision of her career and not step off the most junior rung of government over a decision to cancel 500+ jobs in her constituency? Perhaps she’ll tell the Prime Minister that the decision is intolerable, but she’s going to have to tolerate it? As hard as that conversation might go, she may have a harder one with her local Conservative Association.

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