Michael Meacher & The Summit

Unconfirmed but undenied reports say that Alastair Campbell, the prime minister’s "Director of Communications and Strategy" (press secretary), has decided that to avert media criticism of ‘junketing’, the number of ministers who are to attend the environmental Earth Conference in Johannesburg should be reduced from the original plan, and that the minister to be thrown off the sleigh should be Michael Meacher—the Environment Minister. If the reports are correct and the decision stands, Britain will probably be the only country taking part in the conference whose delegates don’t include the Environment Minister, a distinction I’d have thought we could do without. And, again if it’s true, there seem to be two glaring nonsenses: first, having such a decision made by Alastair Campbell, of all people; and, second, choosing for the chop the only minister in the government who combines a detailed knowledge of all the issues with a firm personal commitment to the environment and widely respected negotiating skills. Let’s hope it all turns out to have been a misunderstanding. It’s an indictment of the government, though, that the story does seem all too credible, whether or not it’s true.