There I was, last February, one day short of my grizzled 77th birthday, reading the Guardian (though not eating tofu at the time). Like you, probably, I live my life against a slow crescendo of concern about climate change and frustration at the inability of ‘politics’ to manage it.
Here we all are, in a crisis described every day and everywhere as “existential”, but politics just isn’t coping. No government, anywhere, is grappling with climate change effectively. Ours may be better than many, but it’s still nowhere near good enough. Politics is failing its big test, big time. And then an idea leapt out of the paper, and the ‘Robert Courts Watch’ (RCW) began to stir.
Politics and the climate
The British public is way ahead of our politicians on climate. We know roughly what’s what and we know roughly what’s to be done. We stand ready to do it. The barrier seems to be politics. We know we have to shift this barrier, and we know we have to get at it with, and through, our MP who, in Witney, is Robert Courts.
If politics can’t, or won’t, take the climate emergency seriously, maybe we, its constituents, have to make it do that. Maybe politics, in the shape of our MP, has to be cajoled, chivvied or embarrassed into adequate action. And that’s why RCW exists.
Reading that Gemma Rogers’ article in the Guardian about the ‘Steve Baker Watch’ initiative in Wycombe made me realise that we needed something equivalent for the Witney constituency. To think well, and to act and vote well, we need really good information about the science and politics of climate change, and we need really good information about what our MP is thinking and doing about it. Our website, RobertCourtsWatch.com, aims to provide both for our Witney constituency.
Robert Courts Watch
We launched RCW and our website, on 19 July 2022. This happened to be the hottest day ever recorded in Britain. Twenty-three sweltering people attended, nonetheless, and generated a hot but happy event. ‘We’, the RCW co-founders, are Caroline (a retired health visitor), Hugh (a serving vicar) and myself (a retired vet). Our steering group has since expanded to ten, and dedicated teams, structures, and processes are emerging and already at work.
We liaise and cooperate with Steve Baker Watch in Wycombe and Craig Mackinlay Watch in Ramsgate. We are part of a growing national MP Watch movement. We research and publish on our website and are branching out into street activism. A street stall to gather and disseminate information and a weekly vigil outside Robert’s constituency office in the High Street are planned.
Our aim is to disseminate good information and apply pressure to Robert. We are inherently political but strictly non-partisan. We are truthful and forceful, but polite. We seek to work with our politicians rather than against them. However we will, and do, call out inadequate policy or slippery responses.
It was, after all, the government itself which declared the climate emergency, established an unconditional target of net zero by 2050 and set this into our law. Net Zero by 2050 is a legal obligation as a result. We have an absolute right, indeed a sacred duty, all of us, to demand that it be achieved. RobertCourtsWatch.com is as good a place as any to start or, if your constituency has no MP Watch as yet, perhaps you’d like to start one?
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