Times they are a' changing

KERMIT was right back in the late 1970s. It's not easy being green!And perhaps everyone should remember that next time we complain about paying more for our petrol or diesel.

Paul Geater

KERMIT was right back in the late 1970s. It's not easy being green!

And perhaps everyone should remember that next time we complain about paying more for our petrol or diesel.

Last week I suggested that most people aren't really serious about saving the planet. We want to appear green and “do our bit” but shy away from anything that will actually change the way we live our lives.

And frankly if we are to prevent the planet from being seriously damaged, it is going to take a lot more effort than taking re-useable shopping bags to the supermarket!

The price of fuel really has nothing to do with government taxes or the green agenda - it is all to do with the fact that more countries want more oil, and the amount of oil under the ground is starting to decline.

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It's dreadful that all these people in China and India now want to drive cars or motorcycles! Things were fine when they were happy to bike around Peking and Bombay - why can't they carry on doing that now that they're building all our electronic gizmos and staffing our call centres?

Seriously, though, in a globalised world you cannot expect people who are working to provide our wealth not to want to share in that wealth.

Which means the demand for oil is increasing just as the supply is starting to diminish. And the first lesson a GCSE economics student learns is that when demand goes up and supply goes down, prices are bound to rise.

There is nothing the government can do to change the law of economics. It cannot bring the price of fuel down.

Yes, it could cut excise duty but that would not be a lasting solution - inflation pressures will continue even if duty was cut, and eventually the cut would not be noticed by anyone.

All that would be achieved is that the government would have less money to spend on services like hospitals, schools and public transport.

If the cost of transport goes up, then the cost of goods transported will have to go up as well. If that means we no longer buy runner beans flown in from Kenya, will that be any great loss to society?

If the supermarkets no longer transport their “local produce” to a distribution centre on the other side of the country before sending them back to a store ten miles away from the field they grew in, is that such a bad thing?

While it would be wrong to dismiss the fears of hauliers out of hand, if we end up with fewer lorries on our roads polluting the atmosphere, is that really such a bad thing?

Society is changing - and we will have to change with it.

The current government may not survive the changes - but the fact is that a David Cameron-led Tory administration wouldn't be able to wave a magic wand and return to the days of cheap energy.

That won't please some of those who want us to go back to the days when we didn't have to think about the cost of filling up the car . . . but it's a fact of life we'll have to get used to.

- FRANCIS Thomas' departure as top spin doctor at Endeavour House was probably of more interest to those of us in the Suffolk media than it was to the general population.

But being head of communications at Suffolk's largest employer - which provides work for 27,000 people and services for everyone in the county - is a vital role.

An organisation like the county council has to get its message across effectively - and anyone who has read this column recently will know I have had some criticisms of this area over the last few weeks.

The existing team in the communications department will be holding the fort in the immediate future but it is clear that the county will be recruiting a new head as soon as possible.

And I can't help feeling that person will be Andy Allsop who was Mr Thomas' number two when he was first appointed - before taking over as head of communications at Bedfordshire County Council in 2005.

There he worked closely with Andrea Hill, and I understand they got on very well together. His job, of course, will come to an end when Bedfordshire is broken up over the next few months.

He still lives in west Suffolk - and when I rang him to ask whether he would be coming back, his denial wasn't the most convincing I had ever heard.

“I am flattered to be linked with the job in Suffolk, but I have a very important job to do here - and I am entirely focussed on that,” he said.

That's certainly the right answer!

But he did deny that he had been to Endeavour House recently: “I was on holiday last week and visited the Suffolk Show - I went to the county council stand to say hello to my former colleagues but I haven't been near Endeavour House for ages,” he said.

I always got on fine with Andy. I can't help feeling we'll be renewing our acquaintance in the not too distant future.

- I WAS talking to some Ipswich Tories the other day and during the conversation I said: “I still can't quite work out whether this is like a mirror image of 1990 or 1995.”

I meant I'm in two minds about whether the Labour government has passed the point of no return, or whether it could still pull an election victory out of the fire in two years' time.

But one Tory said: “I've been told this is like 1977/78 all over again.”

I know for people who have only known the boom years of 1997 to 2007, the current economic downturn feels bad, but as someone who first got interested in politics in the 1970s, let me assure them this is nothing compared with those dark days.

The world is going through a global slowdown - but the British economy isn't on the point of collapse.

Inflation may be up, but it isn't running at 20-30 per cent.

People may be worried about their jobs, but unemployment isn't racing away.

We don't have a Chancellor the Exchequer pleading for loans from the International Monetary Fund and producing mini-budgets every few months.

Things may be tougher than they were a couple of years ago, but compared with the 1970s the British economy is in great shape!