Imagine your top salesman comes in for a chat. He lights a fag despondently, runs a hand through his thinning hair. He thinks for a bit, uncertain how to break the news. Then out it comes: “I just can’t sell this stuff. It’s too hard to sell.”
How much sympathy would he get? Would we withdraw the product he is trying to sell? Of course not. We’d say to him: “There’s nothing that’s too hard to sell. It’s just down to asking the right questions, choosing the right restaurant. If you can’t do the job, then you can go your way.”
For politicians it’s astoundingly different. “It’s a hard sell” is a completely valid excuse for inaction. A license to run away from an unpleasant truth like you might from an ebola virus.
Consider, for example, a recent article in the Financial Times weekend supplement. Three quarters of a page on aviation and climate change. But the idea of us actually flying less is dismissed in six words: “Politically it is a hard sell”.
It is practically the same with energy efficiency and the same with cars. Same with French politicians betraying the fish of the deep seas because of three thousand miserable fishermen who wouldn’t even fill the cop end of PSG. Ditto the EU’s targets in the EUETS second phase NAP. The US and climate change.
They all say it’s politically a hard sell and that’s their get-out clause. An easy get-out clause which we meekly accept. Who stopped to ask them: “Did you actually try to sell it? How hard did you try? How do you know you asked the right questions?” … ?
Why these double standards? If our salesmen can’t shift a couple of trays of pork pies at the proverbial barmitzvah, they are out on the street. But we let politicians tell us it’s a hard sell and we say ok fine try something else.
What if Mr Nokia’s salesmen had said that about those chunky suitcase-phones people lugged around twenty years ago? “Sorry, Sir, it’s a hard sell. We think you should go back to making tyres.”
Are we serious?
You are arguing a cost-effective solution to save life on the planet, and then someone puts up a road sign: “STOP – it’s a hard sell politically.” And everyone says “oh yes, that’s right” and you turn back sadly and follow the sign to steel and concrete techno-nirvana city.
No. The cry of “politically it is a hard sell” masks a treacherous abdication of duty. A grim, cowardly, betrayal of future generations, no less. If saving the planet is too hard a sell for a politician, then he should do the obvious: take some selling lessons.
There’s another way. Iraq wasn’t exactly an easy sell. George “Nike” Bush didn’t even bother selling it. He just did it. The EU isn’t an easy sell. But they just bulldoze it through anyway.
Politicians: just go ahead and tax kerosene shamelessly, with gay abandon; use the money to grow forests. And if there are shouts of complaint, I have a box of ear plugs at only 50p a pair.