The Daily Telegraph

The Left wants to ban our gas hobs and it doesn’t care about the consequenc­es


They’re coming for your gas hob. First, New York and San Francisco banned gas hook-ups for all new residences, then a senior federal bureaucrat said he’s considerin­g a complete ban on all new gas appliances. Yesterday, meanwhile, a review of the UK’S net zero target stated that gas boilers ought to be phased out pronto. With hobs fast becoming a culture war matter in the US, it can’t be long before the British Left takes up the cause and attempts to quench the flambé along with the gas boiler.

The initial impulse for the US bans was climate-related, but the argument has expanded to include worries about indoor pollution causing childhood asthma. Indoor fires have been part of human life since our species learnt to build shelter, though I will admit that having once experience­d the cooking haze inside a rural Ethiopian hut, it is a wonder any of us survived. Even so, there is nothing like cooking on gas and Europe will freeze over before I surrender my hob. I will, however, consent to opening a window.

What’s so bothersome about the campaign, though, isn’t just that it’s yet another assault on convenienc­e, efficacy and pleasure. It’s also the irresponsi­bility of trying to ban something before you have planned for the consequenc­es it might have for the energy system and the grid. Until the gas ban crew has a plan for reliably and affordably producing the electricit­y households need to abandon gas, it is crazy to go around switching energy demand into a form that may not be suppliable. Of course, such practical questions have never bothered most proponents of a ban, like the far-left US congresswo­man Alexandria Ocasio-cortez. Gas hobs, she claimed, make you stupid – before it was revealed that she had one. It’s at least nice to see a politician drawing on their own “lived experience”.

In Cambridge, the Equiano Project this week hosted a gathering of thinkers to discuss race and identity politics. John Mcwhorter, the US linguistic­s professor, opened the event with a brilliant speech on what he called the “reign of terror” gripping the US, whereby the careers of curators or professors can be destroyed after one perceived speech crime, like use of the phrase “reverse discrimina­tion”.

One of the effects of the selfprocla­imed “anti-racist” crusade, he said, is the dumbing down of education. For example, after the murder of George Floyd, the administra­tors of a course on Western classical music he teaches at Columbia mysterious­ly changed the syllabus. Wagner, Chopin and Brahms were out, replaced by Nina Simone. Why had this happened? “Because two and a half people said so and everyone was afraid of them.”

Simone was undoubtedl­y a powerful singer and composer. But was she a Western classical musician? Would she have wanted to be included in such a category? More to the point, how on earth does it benefit black students not to be taught Brahms? How many cultural achievemen­ts must be sacrificed and how many generation­s of students must be forced to undergo a kind of training in ignorance before someone calls time on all of this?

The initial impulse for the US bans was climaterel­ated, but the argument has expanded to include worries about indoor pollution causing asthma in children

Another kind of rectificat­ion campaign came to notice this week as Comrade Boris was airbrushed out of one image, an official photo taken at Virgin’s UK spaceport, only to appear in another, a highly flattering portrait unveiled at the Carlton Club.

It’s easy to see why some Tories might want to present Boris in a positive light, but there is still an untold story about the airbrushed image. Who doctored it and why? Who decided to post it on Grant Shapps’s Twitter account? Was it sabotage or a joke? Or was it a genuine mistake?

As for Mr Shapps, it’s easy to see why he might have enjoyed the airbrushed image more than the original. With Boris there, the image shows the then PM holding forth to an engineer while his toadying minister cracks out an ingratiati­ng laugh. With him convenient­ly rubbed out, it shows a good-humoured Cabinet minister sharing a joke with a couple of British innovators.

There can be few better examples of the gap between reality and a politician’s preferred version of reality.

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