Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Trooping

The Jubilee is upon us and it’s time for the literal rubber to hit the road. The green road that is. I just flew back to London from Davos where I received a Schwab Foundation Award and it occurred to me, the queen herself was the one who needed to deliver our message, and it was up to me to tell her. The question was exactly how? There would be no tree-hugger shenanigans on my part (one can’t save the planet from jail). And one can’t expect to be taken seriously if one looks (and likely smells) like a Neanderthal. So I committed to use my not-inconsequential influence and hoped it wouldn’t end with a call to Daddy’s solicitor. 

It had been nearly a year since the queen addressed the world at the COP26 (the Conference of Parties) and it was then that climate change had gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority. But with so many other things on her mind, (like those pesky Sussexes) I assumed she could use a little help. Britain, at this year’s World Economic Forum, had made a rather dismal showing: No Prince Charles, no Bono, no Elton… not even Swampy, who incidentally has changed his name back to Dan.  

1952: The King is dead. Long live the Queen!

First things first—I’d have to ditch my parents.  Daddy was taking us to view the activities from the roof of Westminster Abbey before making our way over to The Goring for the ceremonial cutting of Her Majesty’s royal fruit cake.  All in all, a very special day no matter the occasion.  My parents are generally not such the social rovers, but Daddy is a Briton through and through, a traditionalist, a conservative, a Tory (we forgive him) and a monarchist. And the Queen’s Jubilee was not coming around again.

He was an engineer by trade, and in service of the crown when I was born in British Hong Kong. I don’t think Judith (Mummy) ever fully adjusted to living abroad. Or London. Or anything terribly domestic for that matter, but her great-grandfather had come up the hard way, and was crestfallen when the Queen Charlotte's Ball was ended; and she had to marry a promising engineer over the prospects of a proper coming-out. Any way you sliced it, this was the closest they would come to the monarchy, or paying their grateful respects to a life spent in service of the British people. 

From the roof of Westminster Abbey, Daddy pointed out the characteristic Gothic features, and of particular interest to him, the continental design of geometrical proportion and wide English transepts. He also pointed out the most recent restoration—decay that was caused by weathering and pollution from coal smoke. I saw this as my sign to head out. ‘Ma’am’ I would say…’I’ve just come from atop the Abbey, where coal…’ Hmm…maybe no.

The perfectly modern monarch.

I’d called in half a dozen favours… not one of which had come back to me with any good news but no matter, off I went—through the maze of security and crowds the likes of which London has never seen. I had, on my phone, pictures of my recent meeting with Prince Charles, my Davos award, my Paris Match cover photo, and for added measure… older photos of me on the British Equestrian Team. Of course I didn’t imagine I’d use these photos to gain entry but I’d used positive visualisation techniques to prepare for this day, and well… they couldn’t hurt.

It also didn’t hurt that I looked like a million bucks.  Mummy had turned up with this hat before I looked for the dress. We’d sort of reverse-engineered the ensemble but it worked, as did my plan.  I’ll never, ever give up the details of how I got in, but suffice it to say, a Cheltenham girl’s got to have a few tricks up her sleeve and once Charles recognised me… he moved toward me in the most welcoming way, as though I’d been expected all along. And up we went. 

It nearly killed me not to want to look up to where Daddy and Judith were perched, sort of like not being able to look at oneself in the monitor when taping a segment, but I was now the model of calm reserve and focus. And I had work to do.  Charles broke the ice by saying ‘I don’t think we can count on monkeypox to cut down on commuters, and production and CO2 output this go round’. Of course he was right, Britons—and really the world, had had it. They were not going to be locked down again even if it helped the planet.

But the queen took a more sanguine tack. She was all smiles, and enjoying the day, knowing her commonwealth was in good hands. I mentioned to her that everyone agrees, the most important message she had delivered in the last decade, had been in Scotland for COP26.

Just then a text from Daddy: ‘Oh for God's sake Jennifer. DO NOT mention Charles’ delusion that his Jaguar actually runs on wine and cheese’.  Followed by ‘And do not bang on about eating bugs either!’.

We’d discussed their so-called ‘Green Champions’ that getting new efficient boilers for all the royal residences was just good stewardship, (albeit a £369 million expenditure of public funds). That turning Gloucestershire organic just meant Charles wanted to eat organic produce himself, and preservation efforts meant no future development infringing on any of the royal retreats. 

They won’t be asking for windmills at Sandringham’, Daddy had once quipped. Imaginary solutions to imaginary problems he called it.

The planet's in good hands, Mum.

But today, in the queen, I saw a mother. One who wanted the best for her subjects and her children. She had just been protecting the things that mattered to her, as she had always done. Different times, different things. Once it had been Norman or Saxon or Celt.

And I wondered if Daddy was right, that there was no correlation between atmospheric CO2 and mean global temperatures, but today we needn’t discuss all that. And after a small push for eating bugs in schools, I assured her that the planet was in good hands. Just then she asked me, ‘Have you any siblings, Miss Kennedy?’ 

‘I do not, Your Majesty’, I replied. 'It's just the three of us'.

‘Pity', she said. 'I should think you’d thrive in a large family. Who knows what the future holds? Fate can surprise you’.

Now, what do you suppose she meant by that?

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Davosing

Hello Davos at long last! It feels a little weird—being here in summer, and also like the prom date who's been stood up four times. but Davos is on, and there are 1,500 private planes here to prove it. I’d hired an assistant named Mila for the conference because I couldn’t very well be seen setting up my own meetings or trying to get myself into parties. I had several invites already but you never really do know which ones will be the hot ticket until you get here.  I’d also set her to the task of sorting out a driver.

A summer conference meant summer clothes, and I refused to be clomping around in wedge-sandals just because modern pavement hadn’t met old Europe. This is among the things Americans find particularly galling and I am starting to agree with them. Hotels never advertise the abysmal water pressure, the inability to use a hairdryer in bathroom, or the two children’s beds shoved together and presented as a king. 

I walked through the Partner’s Lounge after checking in with hospitality and could see there were very few women, in addition to a thousand fewer attendees than in previous years. It was hard to know if the drop-off in attendance was rising anti-elitist sentiment, or Putin's war in Ukraine, but many of the A-listers weren’t coming at all. Not Biden, or Boris, or Macron, or Prince Charles or even Greta. And not even Jamie Dimon, which was a double blow because Jamie’s always liked me, and it meant no JP Morgan Chase-hosted suite. Boo! In its geographic place this year is the Covid testing area, to which we all had to submit upon arrival.

Welcome to the World Environmental Forum.

Mila arrived on foot, and with a local bus map mumbling something about Line 4 (Flüelastrasse). Bus? This wasn’t going well. I was going to have to skip the second half of Xi Jinping to get ready for the India Today party.  It’s just as well, it was hard for me not to focus on the singular-plural mismatch by Xi’s translator. Also I wasn’t happy Klaus opened with Xi. I know we are the World Economic Forum but let’s be honest, the environment is our focus and I won’t give China any credit in that department. Detractors may find us duplicitous (we really should be called the World Environmental Forum) but they don’t grasp how important it is to do our fine work by any means necessary.

India Today went all out for the party, even if it wasn’t terribly exclusive. India itself had the biggest presence at the conference and they wanted to make sure everyone knew it. They had a hundred CEOs and a dozen government leaders. They insist its ‘India’s Century’, that they have the talent pool, and that they played a critical role in vaccinations. Did they? I seem to only remember Donald Trump saying he personally saved two million lives with his vaccine. But tonight I am to accept that India contributed the most. Maybe. But the planet is my passion and as for India… it was #2 on my environmental offender list, and I didn’t have a #3.  

Also missing from this year’s conference were every single one of my clients. It was just as well because the theme seemed to be bullseyes on the billionaires. And I was having a tough time squaring this because everyone that I work with is committed to zero carbon emissions and doing what they can to save our planet.

Day two came both bright and early. Perhaps one too many Mumbai Mules. The last I remembered was a back-and-forth between California’s Darrell Issa and England’s Nick Clegg.  I don’t know anything about Mr Issa but the most interesting thing about Nick is his wife and he turned up without her. Separate from that, I’ll never understand why he thought it smart to tell GQ he had bedded ‘not more than thirty women’ but I think he will always be remembered for his failed attempt to reform the House of Lords. All of this escaped Mr Issa, an American congressman who used to chair something called ‘The Oversight Committee’. That kept me laughing most of the night. 

Klaus Schwab

And the winner is...

Today I get my Schwab Foundation Award! I wanted to wear an asymmetrical Armani knit but I was afraid it wouldn’t photograph well so I opted for a sustainable label. No sooner had I stepped off the stage, I was rushed by a pre-pubescent prat sporting the dreaded orange (press) badge. UGH! He wasn’t here to congratulate me either. He launched into a rant against Barclays (the presenter of the awards). Seriously? How dare you! I’m the bug hostess, and my efforts may just make the difference between saving the planet and not! Plus I was kind of hoping I might parlay this into a stakeholder position with Barclays. ‘By the way, Barclays—you idiot—just set aside £17m for a sustainable impact programme’, I said, moving away from him. ‘…and they provide menopause support to retain their top talent!’

I think the last bit shocked him but he yelled back, ’Barclays' renewable energy banking chief has served on the board of the Sierra Club!’ 

‘Well yay Barclays!’ I retorted, really trying to lose him this time. Why is everybody so cranky post-Covid?

He wouldn't stop. ‘But the Sierra Club has been killing off nuclear plants around the U.S., while taking money from renewable energy companies. Turns out it’s a very lucrative business’. 

UGH! He had me and I knew it. Nuclear is by far the safest way to make reliable electricity and its particulate matter is insignificant compared to the particulate matter from fossil-and biomass-burning homes, cars, and power plants, which kill more than eight million people a year. I said nothing and left the room. It was day three and I was sure to let security know one of the orange tags had slipped through and harassed me. Orange Man Bad! as the saying goes.

I decided to interview a few folks myself, to discuss the things I wished to discuss and was heading straight for Henry Kissinger when Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of UNAIDS thrust herself into my mic. Oh Lord. Keep it light I thought, as she jumped right in. ‘Extreme inequality is out of control, it’s undermining our economies, and fueling crime’, she said. 

‘Thank you’.  I said. I'd heard her speak earlier. She thought if anyone has any more than another, it qualified as inequality and someone was cheating. ‘We don't want countries to simply come to Davos, we want them to put the burden on companies and rich people'. She used the example that in 1970 the top  tax rates were around 62 percent and that today they've been 'negotiated down by rich people’. 

‘Do you know I work with poultry workers in the richest country  in the world?  The United States?  And the poultry worker I spoke to has to wear diapers because she is not allowed to go to the bathroom.  These companies pay their CEOs well and cheat workers down the line’. 

Of course I didn’t know any of this, nor did I believe it,  but she wouldn't shut up so I googled it on my phone to find that the average salary of a poultry worker is $29,000 a year or about $14.10 per hour. No mention if that included diapers. ‘Do you know that $170 billion of profits, every single year, does not  get taxed? Think about that, $170 billion a year that is not given to others to support themselves', she banged on.

No diapers and 14 bucks an hour too!

There was no point explaining to her that all profits were not owed to someone else, and that if every country that came to Davos was forced into 'the burden of high taxation' no one would come here. This she called inequality. And  she went on about how 'jobs were not enough… people need dignified jobs'.  Fascinating really. This woman from Uganda, now making a quarter of a million dollars a year, was telling me that American jobs were not dignified--enough. And failure to hand over profits was stealing.  'Not dignified enough',  she insisted.  

I wanted to ask if she knew there were nearly ten million slaves in Africa but I did not.  But more than that, I wanted her to shut up. Apparently she had checked with the IMF and they told her, companies could afford to pay more. And in her mind that translated to must. This she explained, would fight climate change because apparently with more money, the first thing people  do is become passionate about their carbon footprint.

I tried to interject, and eventually I said:  'As I haven’t the occupational garments of those poultry women… I really must excuse myself.’ Suddenly, I was thankful for Mila and her bus schedule. 

There's No Green Way of War

When last heard from, I was pointing out that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, though undoubtedly a monstrous crime by every decent standard, had produced one worthwhile consequence. It had forced the political leaders of the Western world to be much more realistic about their policies on energy. The first expression of this realism was the strategic decision of several European countries, above all Germany, to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas.

There’s been more talk than action on this front since February 24, with commitments followed by qualifications, but European governments now seem on the verge of agreeing upon a collective plan to substantially cut their demand for cheap Russian energy. That will have a massive impact on the world’s energy markets with innumerable secondary effects that we can only dimly foresee but which we will shortly be experiencing.

Among them, however, is that this decision will complicate even further what is the invasion’s second major consequence for energy policy—namely, it has made the legally-binding commitment by Western governments to a Net-Zero policy of reducing carbon emissions by 2050 completely unrealistic so that it will have to be substantially re-thought.

Governments aren’t good at rethinking bad policies even when they’re minor policies, and Net-Zero isn’t a minor policy. Once President Biden entered office, every government in the West had committed itself to Net-Zero policies and Boris Johnson had held a vast international conference to make that commitment as dramatic and as unsayable as possible.

In happier times: David Attenborough and Boris Johnson.

You see the problem. If you nail yourself to a sinking ship, you must learn not only how to swim but also how to remove nails from planks. That’s too embarrassing for modern Western governments to admit publicly. They want to combine—and camouflage—these two exercises with lectures on the unchangeable necessity of nails remaining in planks. Accordingly, as the priorities for energy policy change in order to resist Putin’s Russia, all the secondary policies that Net-Zero requires are trundled out to establish the falsehood that energy priorities remain unchanged and unchangeable. The result is what’s known as “cognitive dissonance” or following contradictory policies simultaneously.

Here, for instance, is a recent report from the Guardian via Yahoo News that Northern Irish farmers have been instructed to cull their herds by more than 500,000 cattle and 700,000 sheep to reduce methane emissions (from cow and sheep farts) in order to meet “legally binding climate targets” required for Net-Zero. You may have missed this news. Understandably. But you are more likely to have come across two much bigger current news stories.

The first is that Britain is fighting a major diplomatic war with the European Union over the Northern Ireland protocol that imposes an internal United Kingdom customs barrier in the Irish Sea damaging to, among others, Northern Irish farmers. The second is that the British people are facing a massive “cost of living” crisis as the bills for Covid, lockdown costs, and Net-Zero regulations cascade onto the U.K. Treasury which promptly passes them onto the voters in the form of higher taxes and soaring energy bills. Both these crises will now be made worse for British people, and in particular for the farmers in Northern Ireland, by the need to abide by Net-Zero policies even though they’ve been made irrelevant by the post-Ukraine energy re-think.

The farmers will face serious loss of income, the government will be mired in a political crisis, and the hard-pressed U.K. consumer will have to pay higher prices for beef and lamb—when he or she can find them that is, since the (quietly stated) aim of the policy is to get people to eat less meat by providing less of it in supermarkets. In practice many people will reduce other purchases in order to continue eating the same amounts of meat at considerably higher prices. The cost of living crisis will be aggravated, tax revenues will fall, and market signals will be replaced by administrative commands--with the usual results. A policy of making people poorer turns out to be quite expensive—as the next news story shows in spades.

In happier times: beef on the hoof.

Britain has a National Infrastructure Commission—not many people know that—which is looking at ways to fund the change from heating homes with gas boilers to doing so with ground-based electric heat pumps. It will offer the government its advice next year, but the NIC chairman, former Whitehall mandarin Sir John Armitt, has kindly given us a preview of how its collective mind is working.

He told the Daily Telegraph that a ban on new gas boilers would have to be imposed in order to force consumers to buy heat pumps instead. In his own mellifluous words:

 Why would you move to a heat pump at somewhere between £5-£15,000 as long as you can buy or exchange for a new gas boiler for £1,500? The only way that you can make such a significant shift is by saying, well, ‘from a particular date, you will not be able to buy a new gas boiler’.

Good question—and one that the political class answered some time ago in Whitehall but that the voters are really being asked for the first time. Not unfittingly therefore Sir John replied to himself as follows:.

As long as we hold 2050 net zero targets, close to our hearts, there is going to be a tension. Because to get to that point, it’s going to require very big long-term decisions which will cost money. And then at the same time, no politician wants voters on its back because the price of energy is going up. So yes, there is a tension, which requires a very honest debate and discussion. [My italics]

The most honest response to that is that the only people in Britain who seriously hold Net-Zero targets close to their hearts are senior civil servants and the kind of radical environmentalist protesters who glue themselves to the road and obstruct traffic in preference to rational argument. Government ministers used to be in that category, but the Russo-Ukraine war is forcing them to confront the facts of life and death and of politics too.

In energy policy the facts are that the West can’t afford to sustain Ukraine in its resistance to Russia by relying either on Russian supplies of oil and gas or on renewable energy sources such as wind and sun. Both are inherently unreliable. Inevitably, therefore, we will be later in switching to renewables, using fossil fuels for longer than we had planned, and looking for new sources of fossil fuels and employing new methods such as fracking to do so.

In short we will gradually abandon—or in the softer language of bureaucracy—extend the Net-Zero targets to a later date. That being so, why do we prevent people eating what they wish and force them to spend large sums on expensive heat pumps that—final piece of honesty—don’t actually warm their homes as well as the heaters they already have. It shouldn't cost so much money simply to save a government's face.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Boarding

After participating in a disastrous environmental conference, I headed straight to my childhood home in St John’s Wood, only to find Daddy and Judith had gone to the country.  Granted they hadn’t expected me, but some notice would have been nice. It was just as well—I was frustrated with the way the conference had gone and just wanted a curry and a hot bath.

I woke up the next day refreshed, and decided to drive to Le Manoir in Oxfordshire and tuck into one of their eco-friendly suites.  I wasn’t up for any of their cooking or gardening programmes but I pinched some books from Daddy’s study and set off to arrive before lunch. 

The check-in process took an eternity. They are understandably proud of their Green Michelin Star, but I also had to hear about the 100% recyclable amenities, sensor lighting in the bathrooms, a state-of-the-art Rocket Composter, soaps and candles that get re-crafted by local seniors (re-crafted into what I did not want to ask!), and newspapers that are sent to Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital to be reused as bedding. Perhaps just a tad TMI?  I mean I don’t want to be thinking that my morning paper is going to be under some goat’s bum. As it stands I was just getting over learning that Prince Charles never leaves home without his favourite loo seat and velvet lavatory paper.

No green too Green for HRH.

In point of fact, all sustainability measures tickle my little green heart, but at £1,200 a night, I did not want to be thinking about their much-touted closed-loop waste system (whatever that even is!). I nearly had to shove the bellman out of my room to make it to luncheon before the cutoff.  Seven courses later, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Wine without meat (I chose the vegan) packs an extra punch. I made my way back to my room and flopped on the bed which felt like Egyptian cotton but at this point I was beginning to wonder.

I might have slept right through the day but my phone started buzzing as it usually does around this time. No sense closing my eyes… I was up. UGH. I grabbed my earbuds and dialled my father.  

‘Yes, Jennifer', he answered. ‘We missed you at the end of the conference.’

‘Yes I know, I left. Obviously.’ 

‘Obviously’, he replied.  

I was grateful he didn’t push it. ‘So I was thinking of joining a board… I mean, I’ve been asked to join a board. It’s a pretty big deal'.

‘How big?’

‘HSBC big.’

‘I see', he said. ‘Because you know so much about banking?’ 

‘Obviously no’, I huffed. 'Because I can contribute in ways that help them meet stakeholder capitalism metrics'.

Stakeholder capitalism: everybody's a winner!

‘But they don’t need you for that', he observed. 'They can just make things up without any input from you or anyone else'.

‘Ouch! Not nice'. 

‘Actually I’m being very nice', he said. ‘Generous, even. I’ve always supported your ideas, pointed you away from avenues that were not well-reasoned… but this is crackers'.

‘I don’t agree that this is crackers, but historically you help me do my job, even if you don’t agree with it'.

‘Yes, and I will', he said. 'But understand exactly what you are doing here. You are essentially the mob'.

‘As a board member??’ 

'No, as you—Jennifer—thorn in the side of corporations. You are saying hire us to give our opinions, and if you don’t we will hurt your business'.

‘It’s not as simple as that’, I insisted.

‘Actually, it is. You can confer no benefit, you don’t know that your beliefs will improve the company’s bottom line, you don’t have the ability to affect their performance or their profitability. What you offer, is extortion: Pay us or else'. 

He had a point. UGH. ‘Okay…’ I continued. ‘I’m not saying I agree, but Klaus says that global challenges amplified by the COVID-19 have made…’

‘Stop right there. Covid didn’t amplify. Governments amplified. Unprecedented restriction amplified.  And governments, and shake-down artists like Klaus, searched for and found ways to use a health crisis to address other problems. Not to mention previously unimaginable levels of public spending. I submit to you this unprecedented restriction and profligate spending is why they were able to sell it as a pandemic, and why from the very start, it seemed more dramatic than a health crisis—because it was'.

Your papers, please, comrade.

My mind flipped through my many chapters of Covid.  The lockdowns, the travel restrictions, the fear, the confusion, all the take-out food—crazy time. And not to mention the cancellation of Davos—three times,  when in truth  we were all getting on with our lives as best as we could… still flying… still… OK, he had a point.  

‘So Jennifer, I’m not saying don’t take the position—take it.  If you don’t someone else will, and I know you will be more conscientious than the next fellow, but make an effort to reign yourselves in, and not be pushed to sound like a complete nutter'.

 ‘Meaning?’ I asked. 

‘Meaning don’t assume you are right just because it’s what you want. The jump from shareholder to stakeholder was a very slick manoeuvre. And I believe when they realise all they’ve done is let the fox in the henhouse, they’ll want an accounting of every hen that went missing'.

Bright and early the next morning I rang to say I’d take the position. ‘Excellent', replied the woman at the other end of the line. Although she didn’t mean excellent. She asked about my 'additional qualifications'. 

‘Like banking?’ I replied. I mean, she had to know I didn’t know the first thing about banking.

‘No, no...' she said laughing as if I’d given the world’s funniest response to a question of qualification. ‘No, I meant, racial makeup—POC, or sexual identity'. 'As a qualif…’ I bit my tongue. Oh boy. She did mean as a qualification.

And just like that, I went from qualified to unqualified. Perhaps the shortest tenure of a board member in history.  

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Beetling

I was set to enjoy a much-needed holiday in Marbella when I was called back over a small crisis. How small? One centimetre to be exact. I had worked tirelessly to help get a theme park built along the Thames, and then along came a spider, and sad down beside her. 

I was an obvious hire to find the exact language to please even the peskiest environmental groups but moments after they inked the deal… a group of nobodies from nowhere threw a spanner into the works and we were all introduced to England’s new sovereign—the jumping spider.  And not just any jumping spider…lord no, this creeper was being touted as the ‘distinguished jumping spider’ and the ‘favourite of nature lovers’. But just who were these nature lovers? I certainly was not one of them, nor had any of this spider-love shown up in the impact studies. Sadly, I smelled a rat.

We’d done exhaustive research in preparation for what was being dubbed ‘U.K. Disney’ but at the end of the day it was BEETLES that we found—a whopping quarter of all the water beetles in the U.K. were going to happily reside next to an Arthurian kingdom, a sci-fi ‘starport’, and a fairytale land. The surveys said so, I said so, and even the BBC said so. But then the complaints began about potential risk to this beloved spider, and the BBC pulled out—followed by others.

Ladies and gents, Salticus scenicus, the Distinguished Jumping Spider.

As I said, there had been nothing about this in our audit but since when did spiders mind buildings? It seemed to me that all they ever did was was get into homes and hide in corners and behind hatboxes. Without sponsors, the whole project was nearing extinction—just like the much-anticipated dinosaur land, and fastest rollercoaster in Europe. Oh why did we need these spiders anyway? It’s not like they spun silk or made honey.

Just then I clicked on ‘Save the Swanscombe Peninsula’—a website dedicated to killing my project. Just who were these people? And save the peninsula from what? It was not in danger of not being a peninsula. And any third-grader knew that all of Britain had once been a peninsula until an ancient tsunami separated it from Europe. But of course they were trying to sound scary. I knew this because it was a tactic I’d employed myself.  No one was going to care about killing off the hairy four-eyed beast we’d all been happily squishing in our kitchens and bathrooms. So instead they went bigger… claiming the peninsula itself was in danger! Incredible.

The entire site was madness. They’d hidden the pictures of the ugliest creature to set foot on English soil since the Visigoths, and instead showcased fancifully illustrated butterflies, and angelic buffalo asking you to stop the destruction of ‘the most precious place for wildlife and people alike.’ I wondered then if they were actually trying to get a dig in against the Scots because the area was a swamp.  And a swamp that had already been heavily mined of clay and chalk to support a network of cement plants that now lie crumbling along the estuary. And there were shipping ports, and hydraulic lifts, and abandoned quarries as far as the eye could see.

Swanscombe is lovely this time of year.

I assumed that spiders, unlike the spotted owl, couldn’t just be relocated to appease these obstructionists. Ugh.  I longed for the suite I’d left in Marbella in order to come here and sort this out. I thought to call my father who, as a geophysical engineer and oil executive, surely would know the people who know the people who could save my project.  But I dreaded asking him. He was sure to mock me as it’s my people, (the green-niks as he calls us), who cause him all of his trouble. But my project was set to be done in a responsible manner, and create jobs and… eek. I realised I was borrowing his argument. Out of ideas, I gave in and called him.

‘Yes, Jennifer’, he answered. ‘How’s Spain?’ 

‘No Spain’. I said. ‘I had to come back to deal with Swanscombe’. 

‘Reviving the concrete industry?’ he asked.

‘No daddy. The park—the amusement park. We’re being shut down by a spider.’

‘An actual spider?’

‘No daddy, the people who love spiders. YOU KNOW THE PEOPLE! Those… people.’

‘Yes, I do.’ 

Of course he did, but I could hear him gloating. 

“So you called to ask me how to fend off the environmentalists? Do I have that right?’ he asked. 

UGH!  “Yes!  I mean no!  I mean… I just want to finish my job! This place is an industrial wasteland, the spider thing is a ruse, the park will actually improve the environment and it will create jobs’.

Let us reason together.

‘Ah, then the bulk of your work is done’, he said. ‘You now know you can’t reason with these folks because reason is the last thing they understand—present company excluded of course.  But I suggest you just get round them. They’ve scared off the BBC, so offer the space to a competitor, offer them a good deal, and keep offering until you find a client who isn’t a squish'.

He had a point. I couldn’t win a fight with a phantom. And I decided the best way to show them they didn’t scare me was to get right back on a plane to Marbella. It was a real power play. It showed them we knew we had the upper hand and would not dignify their rants with any response. Besides, nothing like a Zoom call with the Marbella Club in the background to give them what for.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Inflating

After a lovely and very active birthday celebration at Annabel’s country house, I decided to drive back to London and do nothing but relax at my childhood home in St John’s Wood. I do feel so very much at home with Annabel but there is something to be said for sleeping through breakfast or taking one’s tea in bed. The fact that Judith (mummy) was away also meant nothing would come between me and watching old movies on my laptop.

I arrived to find a large delivery from Paxton and Whitfield, which meant Daddy and I could spend our evenings chatting over cocktails and nibbles and discussing anything at all without the need to dress or go out. I was five minutes into a bath when I got a text from my housekeeper in California. She informed me that ‘because of 'inflation’ she has to raise her rates.

‘Inflation?’ I texted back. I mean… what inflation? I pay for supplies.

Up, up, and away!

‘Gas is so expensive now, I really don’t have any choice.’ she texted back. Well of course petrol is expensive, but the 'no choice' is debatable. And I don’t know why I’m supposed to make up the difference. Ugh. It’s interesting that, from my perspective, she’s got a helluva deal, getting paid to clean when I’m not even there; and from hers, she needs more money just to show up. We’re clearly not on the same page.

In the end, I agreed to pay her higher rate and decided to have her come only twice a month. And with that, my head was thinking about everything back in LA… the gas pumps, tent cities, the parking crush at Whole Foods… obviously this bath is over. Grr! I could hear my father putting ice in the bar and so I made my way downstairs.



‘G&T?’ he asked.

‘Sure, why not.’ I said. No sense bringing up anything about California, he’d only launch into why I keep a place where I seem not to want to live. But he beat me to the punch.

‘$7.55 for gasoline in California today I read. I guessed $7, I was off by 55 cents.’

‘Yes, it’s a lot.’ I said, ‘But if it saves the life of even one Ukrainian…’

Everybody loves Ukrainians.

‘If WHAT saves the life of Ukrainian?' Uh oh. He went on...'How is paying more for gasoline saving lives in Ukraine?'

UGH! Truth is I didn’t know. I was just repeating what I’d heard on the news. And it wasn’t just me—loads of people had said so.

‘Jennifer! he asked, sharply. ‘I am waiting for an answer!’

‘I don’t have an answer. I heard it on a newscast.’

‘Well I certainly believe that.’ Daddy said.

I lifted the lemon out of my drink and crunched on an ice cube. ‘How’s mummy?’

‘She’s fine, but if we can just get back to this one point, my little green-nik, you cannot, in good service of your clients, and being my daughter, go out into the world imagining we get oil from Ukraine. Or that somehow these prices are due to the conflict with Russia.’

‘Okay.’ I said, ‘but prices are affected by futures and…

'And what?’ he asked. 

‘Well I don't know exactly, maybe they suspected Russia would invade Ukraine...’

‘Maybe, but the U.S. only gets 7 percent of its oil from Russia, and here in England we get just 3 percent.’

‘So the surge is from…?’

‘Your clients mostly.’ He said. ‘It was decreed, that investments in oil and gas must be eradicated even without another option in sight,  Now it’s one thing to fund alternative options -- even the oil companies do that -- but it is quite another for federal officials to make decisions every single day, to drive up the cost of gasoline and natural gas by driving away investment.’

And save the polar bears, too!

‘Right, but someone has to look after the planet.’ I said.

‘Yes, and I’m well aware that someone is you, but until you find an alternative that actually works…?’

‘My Tesla works!’ I said. I mean, I just couldn’t let him say nothing green ever works.

‘Yes, your Tesla. And so affordable! If only people had shorted windmill stocks they could all own one.’

Okay, he had a point. It was double the cost of most other cars, treble if you counted the solar panels that weren’t going to be as profitable as I’d hoped. But I did stifle a laugh. Windmills were a disaster, and after learning the facts I was never taking up the windmill argument again! 

‘Right. point taken. But surely… in light of the current situation…

'Surely not. Even as recently as two weeks ago, when the Biden administration was scrounging around for all the natural gas they could find to send to the E.U., the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made it clear that hurdles would get higher, not lower, so I’m sorry my dear, this isn’t about Russia. The U.S. gas average was $2.46 when Mr Biden was elected and it is $4.19 today and that same president, working in tandem with your clients, made it clear that he intended to be an energetic advocate against oil, coal, and natural gas.’

‘So what’s my play then? I mean, given my work, and my clients?’

‘I’d say same as it ever was. Ukraine is not your client.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘Jennifer, you started this conversation telling me that higher gas prices were helping Ukraine, but inexplicably, President Biden asked Russia and OPEC for more oil. Which goes directly against his claim of less dependence on fossil fuels... so you tell me.'

Sometimes it's lonely out here in the woods.

‘Well I can’t just abandon the planet! We have to at least try.’ I said rather more loudly than I meant.

‘So perhaps try a little less. Take a tip from Germany. It was that rush to green-the-grid that kept them from diversifying their energy sources. Europeans in particular became dependent on Russia—now getting 40 percent of their natural gas from them. And that is why European leaders told Biden they will not cut off imports of Russian oil.’

‘Daddy, I’m listening. But you know my position. I can’t just tell my clients we are to blame.’

‘Then don’t. Blame speed. Preach prudence.’ 



‘Tell them we just have to slow down? And keep burning fossil fuels in the interim? That’s my pitch?’

Yes. Because if we need energy, and we do, we can’t just keep building bike lanes and imagine a corresponding drop in energy will happen. If you need an average of 1,000 calories in a day, and I make it difficult for you to find 800 of those calories, does that mean you are happy with just 200 calories?’

‘No. But the idea was to find 800 green calories instead of carbon calories.’

‘But all you really did was make it harder and more expensive to find all calories. And now you are buying from your enemies. You didn’t make yourself not hungry.’

He had me there. ‘This is depressing,' I replied. 'It's not what I want to market to my clients. But, to be sure, I can definitely say that the problems didn’t begin with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, right? Or Biden’s embargo against American and Canadian energy?'

‘Correct. Even though the very first thing he did was shut down my Keystone Pipeline. So why not just talk about balance—wisely using fossil fuels until you have another solution.’

‘I can’t do that.’

‘Oh I think you can," he said, pouring himself another drink. 'There’s nothing you green-niks like better than a good spanking.’

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Partygating

Annabel has transformed her country house into a glittering wonderland for my birthday celebration, there are fairy lights and flowers as far as the eye can see. I would say she really shouldn’t have done, but with England finally emerging from Covid restrictions, we all need a celebration, and the prettier the better.

She’s calling the party ‘It’s just wine and cheese’ as a play on the very naughty lockdown-busting parties at No. 10 which exposed Boris and Carrie’s bacchanalia, now officially dubbed #partygate. And swiftly followed by a Labour MP calling Boris out for being ‘surrounded by alcohol, food, and people wearing tinsel’.

Normally I’d be on their side but Boris, (who daddy claims was never liked by anybody) is not doing himself any favours being joined by third wife Carrie, who it is rumoured ‘cuts dead anyone who isn’t useful to her’. My frustration with the newly-minted Mrs Johnson is the pall she casts on those of us who are truly committed to saving the planet.

Perfect spot for a wine and cheese party.

Apparently when she’s not furiously texting 25 missives per hour to her PM hubby, or seeing anyone who threatens her sacked, she finds time to be a senior advisor to Oceana, a charity dedicated to protecting the oceans. What she obviously doesn’t realise is that when one puts oneself forth as a beacon of righteousness, and a caretaker of the planet; there is a responsibility not to be smugly sanctimonious or hypocritical.

I texted my father to ask if he felt I was being too harsh and he rang me right back: ‘Maybe not too harsh but why do you green-niks seem to use wine and cheese as the excuse for everything? Prince Charles also tried to excuse his grossly inefficient car by claiming it too ran on excess wine and cheese’.

I had forgotten that… Ugh. But I continued, ‘I just mean, is it too much to think she shouldn’t put herself out as a climate activist if she’s going to make us look bad?’

‘I think she’s showing real team spirit—like most of your clients, circumnavigating the globe in private jets to talk about saving it. That is what you do isn’t it?

I was quiet.

‘Listen… ’ he continued, ‘Forgive the tinsel and frankly forgive the gold wallpaper—£840 a roll isn’t exactly Ceaușescu territory’.

'She bought gold wallpaper?’ I asked.

‘Well, eventually, yes. But first she tried to get taxpayers to pay for it, and then some scheme with a private donor before Boris finally shelled out the £14k. But give the girl credit—she did get us to pay for her gold iPad, which was £538. Her email explains it was for ‘a special advisor’.

Double ugh.

‘Now if you ask your mother,’ he continued…

OMG there’s more?

‘Mummy’s more put off by the fact that Miss Symonds made the Queen uncomfortable by sharing a room with Boris at Balmoral whilst still an unmarried couple. But in truth, only Carrie was unmarried, Boris was married—just not to her.’

‘So I’m not off base to say she makes us all look bad—yes?’

‘Well, OK, yes, but I think that little troll with the braids shouting “how dare you-how dare you” was really a low point’.

Daddy had a point. ‘So I take a stand against her?’ I asked.

‘An actual stand? Jennifer, you’re not really going to vilify the gal who made Boris do a volte-face on climate change are you? He’s one of you now… fully committed even though that same set of facts initially lead him to say that climate concern is “without foundation”.'

Umm… no. I was not going to take down the girl pouring green into the ear of our PM. Still, I felt this was bad for her to be using the planet as her platform to promote herself, and being a huge hypocrite. But save that for another day… it’s my birthday!

As always Annabel gets the best people to come, and such an interesting range. She introduced me as single-handedly saving our planet, and also rather surprisingly… spilled the beans about my biggest client following with ‘But mum’s the word on that.’ Gotta be the wine and cheese talking.

One person who remembered me from my equestrian days, said; ’So… environment, way cool. And you must be thrilled that your colleague is right there at No. 10'.

Life's a beach when you're PM.

WOT? Had she been reading my mind? I downed my glass of champagne and moved to chat with someone else—a gentleman who only met me today as the birthday girl and via Annabel’s introduction. He introduced himself as James and squired me to a slightly less crowded corner before leaning in as though telling me some state secret…

’Just a quick note about the current Mrs. Boris… look out', he said. I wanted to say too late for that…she’s invading my birthday! But I asked, exactly what for?

‘Just as a sort of birthday present… I’m telling you don’t join forces. They might well be sent packing after all'.

And with that, he began to tell me much more than Daddy had done. Apparently Mrs. PM had given her friends the secure passcode to enter No. 10 when popping over for tea or to play draughts, or as turned out to be the case… to snoop around in Boris’ office where in fact, some classified documents had gone missing. This was bigger than tinsel.

She is also known to be heard whispering in the background of Zoom calls, telling Boris what to do when she disagrees. And when it suits, physically taking his phone and sending directives out to anyone and everyone… often taking positions of which he is entirely unaware. Only to find himself insisting the next day in meetings that he has taken no such position. And even then to return home at day’s end, and be instructed to call back and completely reverse his position again.

What to do with all of this information? I am not sure… right now it’s my #partygate.

More Green Insanity in Great Britain

Despite the ongoing energy crisis in Europe, the British Oil & Gas Authority (the same government department that banned fracking in 2019) has ordered resource company Cuadrilla to "permanently seal the two shale gas wells drilled at the Lancashire shale exploration site, with the result that the 37.6 trillion cubic metres of gas located in the northern Bowland Shale gas formation will continue to sit unused."

British politics site Guido Fawkes points out that this self-sabotage is utterly insane since "just 10 percent of this volume could meet U.K. gas needs for 50 years [and] U.K. imports of Natural Gas are expected to skyrocket to over 80 percent by 2050." Cuadrilla’s CEO Francis Egan had this to say:

Cuadrilla has spent hundreds of millions of pounds establishing the viability of the Bowland Shale as a high-quality gas deposit. Shale gas from the North of England has the potential to meet the UK’s energy needs for decades to come, yet ministers have chosen now, at the height of an energy crisis, to take us to this point. Once these wells are filled with cement and abandoned it will be incredibly costly and difficult to rectify this mistake at the PNR site.

Safe shale gas offers us a chance to combat the cost-of living crisis, create 75,000 jobs and deliver on the ‘levelling up agenda’ in Red Wall areas, in addition to reducing our reliance on imported gas so that Britain becomes more energy secure. What’s more ridiculous is that leaving our own shale gas in the ground will make reducing global emissions even harder. Emissions from importing gas are far higher than those from home-produced shale gas. I don’t think that this has been properly thought through.

Of course it hasn't. The Johnson government is in a tailspin at the moment. This situation in Lancashire should afford Boris a perfect opportunity to demonstrate to a skeptical citizenry that he's up to the challenges of his office. He should counteract the Oil & Gas Authority—an office within his government after all—and get those wells pumping. This, along with a more generalized pro-energy pivot will help to combat soaring energy prices, stimulate the battered economy, and deliver jobs for those traditional Labour voters in Northern England who "lent" him their support in 2019, giving him his majority.

Johnson needs to realize that right now he's just renting those voters. If he lets these "permanent" closures go ahead, and continues down his current path, fecklessly ignoring the details of policy beyond spouting whatever environmentalist drivel his elitist peers—including his newest wife—are feeding him, and expecting his Wodehousian persona to keep him in the good graces of the public, he's going to lose, and badly. He'll deserve it.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Boris in the Wrong

When the great 19th-century Tory leader, Benjamin Disraeli, came to his friend (and fellow-novelist) Edward Bulwer-Lytton and asked for his political support in a forthcoming parliamentary debate, Lytton said: “Well, I will support you if you're right.”

“That’s no use to me,” responded Dizzy. “Anyone can support me when I’m right. What I want is people who will support me when I’m wrong.”

That’s the unenviable position in which the U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson finds himself today. He is seeking support from MPs in his own Tory party when he’s in the wrong. And not just mildly, mistakenly, accidentally, or partly in the wrong, but massively, seriously, undeniably, and stonkingly in the wrong.

"What have I done?"

How wrong this particular wrong is—well, that’s a matter of dispute. What Boris Johnson did was to impose a series of tough anti-Covid regulations on his fellow-citizens—staying at home, wearing masks, social distancing, not going to marriages, funerals, or the deathbeds of dying loved ones—while ignoring the same regulations himself when he attended parties in Number Ten Downing Street (his official home as well as an office) where “alcohol was served.”

On top of that, the truth had to be prised out of Boris’s possession by a series of damning tweets, Downing Street memos, Fleet Street scoops, and eventually an official report by a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, who made strong criticisms of the behavior of Downing Street staff but whose report had to be heavily redacted until the police determine whether any of them, including Boris, will be charged with the criminal offense of drinking in company during a pandemic.

It’s clear from all this that Boris broke the rules he was imposing on everyone else. For most of the last few weeks, his denials of this made matters worse when they gradually disintegrated under the weight of evidence. His popularity—which two years ago was enormous when he won a landslide election, fell ill, and then emerged from hospital having almost died from Covid—collapsed in recent days to below sea level. He faced demands from all sides, including Tory M.P.s and ordinary party members, that he should resign in disgrace. Many of his critics as the week ended were still hopeful that Boris would feel the policeman’s hand on his collar when they checked the evidence and found an armory of smoking guns.

Even then Boris might leap free with a single bound. Until now we’ve been assured by Boris’s media and opposition critics that “the Prime Minister must be treated like anyone else who’s broken the law.” But it now transpires that those charged with illegal partying are not hanged, drawn, and quartered—as the Labour Party, the tabloids, and Remainer Tories seem to have been hoping—but merely informed of their offense by the cops, asked to pay a modest fine, and let go without being properly “named and shamed.”

'What would Disraeli do?

Naturally, the forces of political morality have switched lines and now declare that a prime minister should be treated as an exceptional case and arraigned in such cases. But Boris refuses to make that promise; there doesn’t seem to be a way of forcing a change of mind on him; and any leaking of his hypothetical criminality would probably be a worse criminal offense than having an illicit drink with a maskless man.

By the time that Boris stood up to make his parliamentary statement “accepting” the criticisms of the civil servant’s report this week, there was a growing sense that Boris might well get away with it. He then lived uncomfortably through the worst two hours of any politician’s life as he had to apologize and grovel in response to a torrent of attacks, insults, gibes, flouts, and sneers.

But he survived, however unheroically, and later the same day he glad-handed his way around the 1922 committee of Tory back-benchers where he received a friendly reception. Though his approval ratings are low, they’ve stopped sinking, and there are signs in the opinion polls that support for the Tory Party has not fallen as far as most pundits expected because “shy Tories,” embarrassed by the Boris scandals, are getting over them and returning to the fold. And though the Telegraph tells us that a steady stream of MPs are still calling for Boris to go, its own list of them stops at twelve (or did at the time of writing) and one of them has since removed his letter of no confidence.

Boris meanwhile jetted off to Ukraine where he met the president and encouraged the Ukrainians to stand firm against Russian threats. He was pursuing the usual tactic of a political leader under fire of “getting on with the people’s business.” The Downing Street machine also let it be known that he would be installing a whole raft of reforms to improve the government's delivery of prosperity. In particular he would light a “bonfire of regulations” to take advantage of the U.K.'s “Brexit freedoms” now that it’s no longer bound by E.U. rules. Normality was returning—that was the message on Wednesday.

The Ukraine is nice this time of year.

On Thursday four senior Downing Street aides resigned. On Friday another aide followed. They included Johnson's chief of staff, his director of communications, and his principal private secretary--all key members of his entourage. The papers carry stories suggesting that at least some of the resignations were examples of "going to avoid being pushed" following less than stellar performances in office. One official had supposedly spent two days watching cricket in the week Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.  Whether or not such stories turn out to be true, the leaking of them is a standard operation by the government press machine to protect the boss. For the moment, therefore, keep a grain of salt at hand.

But one resignation may have a wider significance than the others. Munira Mirza was the head of the Policy Unit in Downing Street with a government-wide brief to advise on policy and strategy. She was not a civil servant who came with Downing Street but a personal friend and long-time aide to Johnson who served with him in his two terms as mayor of London. Johnson called her a "powerful nonsense detector" and relied considerably on her judgment and intellectual support.

Why did she jump? It's hard to believe that her stated reason—Boris's parliamentary gibe that opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer had failed in his duty a decade ago to prosecute the serial child molester and BBC disc jockey, Jimmy Savile—as the sole or even the main reason, though she doubtless disapproved of it. She certainly had other possible motives for resignation. In particular, she had set up a committee of distinguished social scientists of different ethnic backgrounds and national origins to report on racial and ethnic disparities in the U.K. It produced a thorough and well-documented report essentially arguing that though racism still exists in Britain, the "claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence.”

That was controversial and strongly attacked by Labour, the wider Left, and "the race relations industry." It was also well-argued, supported by other social scientists, perfectly defensible, and a necessary attempt to ensure that race, ethnicity, and migration can be honestly and fairly debated. But the government failed to give the report its full backing. It was allowed to die. That must have pained Ms. Mirza, and it was probably not the last occasion on which her boss disappointed her by failing to fight important political battles in which "the Blob" would have been against him.

Sherelle Jacobs in a Daily Telegraph column noted that though public anger was fading over “Partygate” itself, its long term impact might be a more dangerous one: to suggest to voters that the Tories are faking it when they promise conservative policies or strike conservative attitudes.  Many voters—indeed, not a few Tory MPs themselves—feel exactly that. Nor will Boris’s latest promise of de-regulation comfort them. Here’s a quote from a Telegraph report the day after Boris promised his bonfire of regulations:

The Government watered down plans for a post-Brexit bonfire of Brussels regulations – often cited as a major benefit of leaving the EU – and opened fresh divides between the embattled Prime Minister and his backbenchers. A plan devised by Lord Frost, the UK’s former Brexit negotiator, to cut two retained EU regulations for every rule written was dropped. It was said not to fit in with Mr Johnson’s ambitions to cut Britain’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 .

As the old saying goes: You couldn't make it up.

Stiff upper lip, and all that.

Notice in particular that what seems to have blocked the government's program of de-regulation is its commitment to Net-Zero. For though there are undoubtedly other causes contributing to Britain’s growing energy crisis (with its immediate threat of energy prices rising one third this year), Net-Zero is the single most important reason. That truth has been denied and wished away for years, but its breaking through at last. Today's papers report that senior cabinet ministers in the U.K. now favor scaling back Net-Zero plans and encouraging more production of Britain's plentiful natural gas.

All  that stands in the way of this commonsense is Boris Johnson's zeal for Net Zero. But the prime minister’s resilience will not save him when the public is angry not over a few parties but over fuel bills they can’t pay and blackouts that chill their homes when both of these disasters are direct results of government policy.

Either Net-Zero goes, or he goes.

Enemies of the People: Boris Johnson