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Unite To Win
Why I chose to interview Alastair Campbell
Last week, I interviewed Alastair Campbell about the climate campaign. In it, he emphasises the importance of getting both power and people onboard, stressing the need for a unified and simple message to inspire action. During, he also agrees to help the campaign.
The episode received a divisive response. On the afternoon I advertised the teaser on Twitter, I saw a downtrend in subscribers for the first time. Publishing the episode, I was criticised for having invited a “war criminal” onto the show; similar comments were made on Youtube. Some audience members analysed the content of the interviewing, claiming Alastair was too vague in his responses concerning the urgency of the crisis; yet another member of the establishment using delay tactics.
Alongside these public comments, I received messages of support from activists who recognise the necessity of crossing the ideological divide between those taking action on the streets and those sitting in, or by, the seat of power in Westminster. Indeed, Alastair’s message throughout the interview was the importance of building a campaign which crosses that divide, whether that be messaging which speaks to those in power or messaging which speaks to the motorists dragging Just Stop Oil protestors off the street and out of the way. Successful campaigns depend on widespread support. Now, more than ever as the urgency increases exponentially, we need to get more people onside.
So why did I choose to speak with Alastair? It wasn’t just to relay his perspective to my audience—he has a huge platform they can visit and hosts the number one podcast in the UK—but also to get our perspective to him. My aim wasn’t to grill him or even debate (there is no debate to be had), but to at once get some insight into how the establishment functions and request that he come onside to provide a form of support which legitimises climate action to a wider audience. If we are to cross that ideological divide, we need allies who will help clear the path; the only objective can be unity. People like Alastair could be pivotal figures. Indeed, there is no ideological divide to cross to reach him as he sits on the left wing, believes climate science, pushes for political reform (including citizen’s assemblies) and is just as desperate to remove the Tories from power as the rest of us. The only divide is, perhaps, a structural one—one of how politics currently functions versus how it could and should function. If we cannot find common ground with someone supportive, how can we expect to convince those who decry science and flirt with fascism?
We are in a desperate situation which requires all hands on deck. In the United Kingdom, the Public Order Bill has declawed activists by making protest nigh-on illegal. Brave citizens take to the streets every week and are met with both arrest and violence, by state and fellow citizen alike. Simultaneously, El Nino threatens to break the 1.5 degree limit this year. This may be temporary but 1.1 degrees saw 33 million people displaced in Pakistan last year. This month alone, 250,000 Somalians were displaced by a river breaking its banks, Bologna was underwater, the coast of Peru was on fire, and an investigation found that green funds investing in renewable energy financed rampant deforestation in the Amazon as trees were turned into biomass to feed furnaces. Conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues turn to sociopolitical threats: Will the United States descend into civil war, or will it attack China while it still considers itself more militarily powerful? Will Labour oust the Conservatives in the UK and implement the recent promise to stop all new oil and gas fields, or will the extreme right of the Tories seize another round of power? Will we still have the luxury of elections in this country in a decade?
If power won’t listen when we knock, we must find backdoors in. Some activists are turning their attention to those sympathetic in industry to sketch out transition plans in the face of governmental inaction. Celebrities are taking sides, donating increasing amounts to eco-movements. Children are still on strike around the world. Why should it fall on them to lead the way as the world wakes up to reality?
Some may be critical of me for letting Alastair “off the hook” during our interview but my gentle prodding led to a promise of help. He’s making good on that promise. Despite his undeniable position as a leading political figure in the UK he has both invited my knowledge and welcomed my requests. In some contexts, there are more fruits to be picked from the labour of relating than opposing. When I speak to people around the world about the kind of future we envision, it is one of compassion, care and trust. There are many ways to fight that which needs to be defeated. The avarice of leaders and economic system alike must be opposed, yes, and perhaps that opposition will become a fierce war cry from a people who say, finally, enough is enough. But cries do not dismantle systems. Dismantling, by its nature, is done with care and consideration. Dismantling begins in conversation, in homes, in community. We dismantle that which threatens to tumble. We repurpose. We move on.
This climate campaign is a fight for survival. The more people we invite to fight, the less likely we are to descend to war. Each and every individual has a role to play and skills to offer. Yet, the purpose is not to celebrate individuals but to unite before that which can only be faced collectively.
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