Green ambitions must be realistic

I DIDN'T catch as much of the Live Earth concert as I meant to on Saturday - most of the artists I was keen to hear were performing in New York long after I'd gone to bed!But there's been a great deal said and written over the last few days about whether there was any point to the concerts.

I DIDN'T catch as much of the Live Earth concert as I meant to on Saturday - most of the artists I was keen to hear were performing in New York long after I'd gone to bed!

But there's been a great deal said and written over the last few days about whether there was any point to the concerts.

It was a bit rich to hear Madonna lecturing us about how we should all change to energy-saving lightbulbs when she goes flying around the world in a private jet buying African children.

However despite the considerable hypocrisy on show, the concerts were worth the effort.

People should be able to travel the world to work - and frankly those who appeared at Live Earth bring a great deal of pleasure to the public around the globe.

Over the last few years I've see Bon Jovi, REM, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Foo Fighters live. How were they supposed to get to Britain from their homeland? Should they have sailed the Atlantic?

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It is not wrong for people to travel - it is the method of travel that needs to be addressed.

There is nothing wrong with flying the Atlantic, but if you do it in a private jet rather than as a first-class passenger you are pushing up your carbon footprint.

And the fact is the Live Earth concerts at least put the issue of climate change on the agenda. People who probably would never think about the issue could not ignore the subject for a few days.

Even to hear people debating whether or not rock stars are hypocrites at least means people are talking about the environment - even if it is somewhat obtusely.

And much has been made about the energy people used to get to the concerts - but I can't help feeling that most of those who went to Wembley will have used public transport.

With a wonderful new stadium in the capital, then we really should be pleased it is being used. Of course if we all sat at home strumming our mandolin in flickering candle light we would be using very little energy, but the fact is that in the 21st century we use energy.

The argument surely has to be that we should use energy as efficiently as possible - not that we shouldn't use energy at all.

RAIL travel has seen a massive revival over the last 15 years with more passengers travelling than at any time since the second world war.

But is that really any reason for the government to instruct rail companies to put up ticket prices?

Surely if the government was serious about getting us out of our cars it would be encouraging us to use the environmentally-friendly rail network more by subsidising tickets - possibly by raising more tax from more damaging forms of transport like air travel and gas-guzzling vehicles.

The last thing the environment needs is for people thinking of taking the train from Ipswich to Norwich or Ipswich to Scotland deciding that it is cheaper to drive or to fly.

Somewhere in Whitehall the economists and environmentalists have to talk and come up with policies that don't work counter to each other.

I'VE met a fair number of politicians over the years. Some I've liked, some I've found really pompous and arrogant.

But if I'm asked who the best politician to interview and to talk to - someone who I'd like to meet on a social rather than a business basis the answer would always be the same.

I've met Charles Kennedy several times. He's always a joy to interview. He talks naturally and is a born communicator.

As an inspiring figure able to get attention for his party and to motivate his workers there was no one in British politics to challenge him.

However the flaws to his character have never been far below the surface - especially the fondness for drink and the need for a smoke.

Every time I've met Mr Kennedy he's told me he's about to give up cigarettes. I have yet to spend more than a few minutes interviewing him without having him light up - except when I met him at Ipswich Hospital on a visit and at that stage he looked very uncomfortable and was clearly itching for a cigarette.

So I wasn't really surprised when I heard about his run-in with the authorities after being caught smoking on a train from London to Plymouth.

Clearly he finds it very difficult to get through life without a cigarette - but smoking and drinking are part of his character, a character that has brought many more members to the Liberal Democrats over the last ten years.

Whatever people say about Mr Kennedy, and there have been several jokes at his expense over recent days, the fact remains that he is still the most instantly recognisable member of his party.

And since he was forced to give up the leadership of the party, the Lib Dems have become much greyer. Much less interesting. Much less prominent in the world of politics.

With a new prime minister restoring hope to some Labour Party supporters and a young Conservative leader attracting attention to his party, the Liberal Democrats are having a real struggle to make any kind of impact at present.

And if it's impact the party wants, no one is better at bringing attention their way than Charles Kennedy. He's still the party's only A-list politician.

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