This new controversy brings new light not only on the sensitive issue of cheap energy versus rural integrity but also on business practice versus parliamentary integrity
The Conservative party's campaign strategy tsar Lynton Crosby's tobacco-industry associations have caused much recent controversy, given his proximity to David Cameron and Cameron's decision not to enforce plain cigarette packaging.
According to The Independent, a new scandal might be at hand: his firm represents companies in the oil and gas industry, specifically those promoting fracking and shale gas development in the UK. This new controversy brings new light not only on the sensitive issue of cheap energy versus rural integrity but also on business practice versus parliamentary integrity.
David Cameron's u-turn on cigarette labelling and Osborne's tax breaks for fracking companies have both been linked to the professional influence of Crosby and his lobbying firm Crosby Textor. That a talented lobbyist has access to, and influence over, policy makers surprises no-one but the uneasy balancing of this against Crosby's employment by the Conservatives as a chief campaign adviser raises eyebrows.
The fear is that something delicate and not quite quantifiable is being exploited. No one begrudges the astute the right to leverage position but where campaigning and governance combine who can differentiate between the start and the end of a policy formation circle? Crosby is making business and providing his clients with a service but in doing so may jeopardise the system he currently profits from.
Utility vs utilities
Apart, but not detached, is the issue of fracking itself. Similarly controversial is profit juxtaposed with destruction of a cherished space. In the north of England alone, there are an estimated 1,300 trillion cubic feet, worth tens of billions of pounds to the UK. In times of uncertainty in a world where energy is traded at premiums beyond pure economics such a boon requires utilisation. Technological advancement and a proven market in the USA has given a definitive gleam to the treasure below our rolling hills.
However, an apt parody of pandemonium echoes. Blake's satanic mills now probe an angry tectonic Lucifer, earthquakes in Lancashire have caused rumblings beyond the stone walls of its sleepy villages and the question of profit versus conservation could not be more stark.
Our demand and expectation for energy and progress emphasise the initiative of industry over aesethics and the notoriously poor profit margin of cosmetic sentiment. It seems Lynton Crosby would agree.
At risk are not just our ancient woodland and beautiful hills but the independent reputation of our parliament (however tarnished it already is). If we are to truly profit from anything, an integrity must be maintained, whether on green benches or green hills.