The Columnists I Always Read

I want insight and humour. I read to be informed, entertained, and in the current madness, reminded that sanity is still out there.

I am repulsed by blowhards and fools.  There is too much choice if you want poor drag acts holding themselves as providing informed comment.

EuroComment’s Peter Ludlow gives a fly on the wall, blow by blow account of the meetings of the European Council. He writes with wit and masterful insight. My only regret, is that in only gets published 6-9 times a year.

The Financial Times – FT – gives me nearly all I need. It’s got two of the best columnists out there. Lucy Kellaway shoots down fools and ijiats.  Wolfgang Munchau provides a welcome non-Anglo-American perspective. I regret I am confined to a Anglo-American viewpoint.

Jennifer Rankin at the Guardian does a great job on reporting on the great British Brexit train wreck. One looks forward to her next tale of incompetence.

The Daily Telegraph’s Christopher Booker and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard seem like refugees from a bygone era when the Telegraph saw itself as a serious journal of record. Today, it seems sadly desperate to sell itself off to “friends of Nigel” and peddling there ever delusional vision of “Acorn tea and rat stew” paradise of Brexit Britain. I enjoy reading a different perspective than my own.

Brussels is well served by Politico. It has the freshest leaks – how many sanctioned is never clear – and has a stable of talented and insightful readers. Their reporting on negotiations is timely, accurate and well written.
On a weekly basis, I have a flashback and remind myself that excellent writing, civility, and free trade where once the order of the day. The Economist  provides an hour or two of welcome decency and fine writing.

Every Friday I catch up with Chemical Watch – for work-  and rediscover that complex subjects can be crafted into clear and plain writing in the hands of a talented writer.



The one night stand model for winning votes

Do you want to win

People are usually only interested in winning on their own terms.  There is a purity to this approach. If you win, you have won enough people over to your side, and you have likely converted them to your belief structure.


Reframing – Use Values

I learned a long time ago that a good technique is reframing.  Here are two good examples of reframing an issue from conservation (prospector territory) to public health (settler territory).
The Next Step
I have copied Greenpeace model for successful campaigns and use a combination of values and social network analysis.
If you are interested in values you should read and you can see your profile @
What Model do you use: Conversion or the One Night Stand Model?
I take this one step further, but only for the brave client who really wants to win.
You can win by saying what the client want others to believe – I call it conversion.
I am simple and find out what the client wants and see if it can be translated into something that will get the people making the decisions to support you. I call it the one night stand model. It is about mutual self-interest.
In the second option, you align mutual self-interest for a very short period of time to secure a political victory. They don’t have back your case for your reasons, you have to find out how to pitch your case to them in a way they co-opt it as their own, if only for one night (or the vital vote). They back you for their reasons. After that, you can go your own separate political way.
Ironically, I have learned that most progressives and companies are in the business of conversion.  Both sides prefer purity. I just know I am fallen.

European Commission’s 2017 Work Programme – Time to Deliver & Implement

First Vice President Timmermans surprised me this Tuesday (25 September 2016) when he announced the European Commission’s Work Programme for 2017.  He made me proud to be a European.

Time to Enforce Our Environmental Laws

For the first time in more than 25 years he highlighted the importance of implementing and enforcing European Environmental Law and the Single Market rules.  I have been following this issue since 1995 and things have not been improving. The reality is that European environmental law is badly implemented and enforced in many countries. This problem is not just confined to the new member states. People in the know have know about this for years. Most of them have kept quiet.  And, instead of fixing the core legal and regulatory challenges, people in the know have gone on and piled new laws onto top of old.

That merry go round has stopped. I am sure a lot of people will be upset that the legislative train is not full of new proposals. The excitement of working on new laws is an exclir for many, me included, and the grinding it out work of sound and thorough implementation and enforcement on the ground is of less excitement to many. But, it is that side of the work which actually secures the vitally important improvements in environmental protection and public health.

What is Going Forward

First, the law making train is not coming to a halt.  Existing legislative proposals and initiatives on the revision of the Waste Framework Directive and ETS continue their review and scrutiny by the European Parliament and Member States. Policy review and development for Chemicals under the REACH Regulation continues.

Second, proposals announced under previous Work Programmes that have not been adopted continue through the normal adoption process, that is Regulatory Scrutiny Board & Inter-Service Consultation inside the Commission.  This includes: New Electricity Market Design, Energy Union Governance, Review Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, Review of Energy Efficiency Directive, RED II. Their fate, namely whether they are put forward as formal proposals, will be decided by the internal workings of the European Commission. Of course, if the Commission decide not to table these proposals, they can not be tabled.

Unlike in previous years, there is no hint of environmental proposals or laws being withdrawn or repealed.

What Happens Next

The European Commission, European Parliament and European Council, will agree a Joint Declaration of Priorities in line with the Inter-Institutional Agreement. This will happen in December 2016. The proposals will come out in 2017.

When the proposals are adopted I will update this blog.

Summary of Key Environmental Measures in the European Commission’s 2017 Work Programme 

See link.

Circular Economy – see item 2

  • A strategy on plastics
  • An initiative to address legal, technical or practical bottlenecks at the interface of chemical, product and waste legislation
  • A monitoring framework for the circular economy

Measures on Water:

  • a proposal for a Regulation on minimum quality requirements for reused water
  • a REFIT revision of the Drinking Water Directive

    A more strategic approach to enforcement of EU Environmental law – see item 21

 Non-legislative initiatives to address: ensure proper implementation and enforcement of environmental regulations, environmental compliance assurance, access to justice

Modernization of Comitology Procedures – See item 20

  • Proposals to align the rules for secondary legislation to the updated Treaty rules – the long awaited Omnibus exercise agreed to in the Inter-institutional Agreement on Better law Making
  • A widely announced non-legislative “assessment of the democratic legitimacy of existing procedures for the adoption of delegated and implementing acts”. This is to address sensitive substance authorizations, such as glyphosate, when Member States fail to come to a decision on a substance authorization.

    Implementation of the EU Global Strategy – See item 17

Efforts to foster amongst other things, environmental/climate resilience in third countries

5 Lessons on Political Campaigning

  1. There Are No Conspiracies

The longer I work I realise there are no conspiracies, just one side is better organised, with simple plans that are well executed, facing off against others who embrace chaos as a strategy and internal dialogue as action. This is how David beats Goliath.

2. Have A Map at Hand

It is going to be hard to get to where you want you to be without a map or a GPS system (for me at least). You’d be foolhardy to travel 4000 miles without having planned out the journey in advance and having the right directions. Yet, all too often when groups and people are trying to influence a piece of law they start off and continue without knowing the likely journey and the process for adopting that piece of law. However, many people have found some generic map that gets you from A to Z for all journeys. If you find that map, please send me a copy.

3. Have a Guide Who Knows Where They Are Going and Knows How To Get Back

And, you would be considered very brave to go on trek into the wilderness, climbing a hazardous mountain range, or sailing across the Atlantic Ocean without a very experienced guide. People may think you are suicidal.

You would usually hire a guide to get you there and back. You’d expect that your guide had gone on the same journey many times back and forth successfully before they had become a guide. You would not think that a guide would have learned just from books and online courses and they were in fact taking you out on your first trip. Whilst you may live to tell the tale, and that is a big if, it’s not a journey you’ll have positive memories about.


4. Have a Live Marketing Sales List

People buy marketing lead lists because they are likely to be targeting the people who are going to buy the product they are selling. Random sales pitches may work but focusing on the real buyers is a smarter idea.

Not knowing in advance who the core of your market is very brave. Too many campaigns start out in advance not knowing who in each country will make or influence the decision they want to change. There is an easy way to know, ask them for a copy of the list of key contacts (along with a copy of the  usually not-existent plan).

It is not hard to prepare. I have found on EU decisions, it is about 200 men and women across 28 Member States and Brussels who will decide on your given issue. If you have no idea who most of them are in advance, your chances of getting to them are slight. You may get lucky and stumble across them in a bar one evening (which I have done) but the bar bill and hangover the next morning does not make it a long term strategy.


5. Speak the Language of Your Market

People may be confused if you ran an ad campaign in Irish on the British mainland. You’d be narrowing down your target market who’d understand anything you were saying to a very few people. It may raise some curious interest, and the Gaelic speakers of Wales and Scotland, and the Irish language fraternity of Kilburn, would be interested. But, you’d likely be missing out on 99% of your audience.

For some reason, which after 25 years I still have not understood, many campaigners in NGOs and Industry are convinced that the public and decision makers, whether they are officials or politicians, are equally interested/obsessed about their pet issues as they are.  Campaigners go full on writing or talking about the issue as if the equations, technical Phd jargon, and sound science language is commonly used and understood and officials and politicians, who are disproportionately lawyers, economists (for officials) , or political activists, teachers and lawyers (for politicians) care and understand about this.

I clearly had a nasty bump on the head as a child either player rugby  or having some rubble fall on my head after a bomb explosion in N.Ireland. I discovered that very few people saw, let alone cared, the world from my perspective. The next global  meeting of free trade personalist social democrats is at the Ritz red phone box on 23 June 2016. Standing Room only.

I found out that the only way to get other  people to be interested in the issue I was campaigning about was to pitch it to them in a way that resonated with them. You can either talk about bushmeat in terms of gorilla conservation or you may want to add in the threat of ebola coming into Heathrow to the Sunday Times. You can talk about fish stock conservation or billions in subsidies to an unprofitable industry to free trade politicians.

That’s not to say you’ll not find that there are some key people you need to persuade that are not passionate about conservation. An unexpected ally once came in the form of a Commissioner who sent his Spanish Cabinet official (it seems Cabinet officials dealing with fisheries are often Spanish for some reason) with instructions that they fully backed WWF/Greenpeace’s work on Blue Fin Tuna conservation and would be supporting the issue. The Spanish official was clearly not very happy. I have even met officials with post-doc work in chemistry who wanted to talk about the science on a substance ban. But, if you go in expecting that that is usual you are going to be disappointed.