‘Penny For The Guy’: Of Fireworks, Kings And Climate Change

In Great Britain, November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day.  It commemorates the failed Gunpowder plot of 1605, when Catholics tried to blow up Parliament to kill the Protestant James I and legislators.  The powder keg failed to go off, ending in fiasco. 

For weeks before Guy Fawkes Day, children in England cart around an effigy of Fawkes, and can be seen at train and subway stations, outside pubs and other gathering places.  They ask for a “Penny for the Guy?”  The money is used to buy fireworks.  On the night itself after supper, Dad helps with lighting a bonfire and the fireworks.  At the end, poor old Guy ends up in the bonfire to a loud cheer.  There are also organized events with fireworks displays and much larger bonfires.

No point in trying to blow up a king these days, he has little to no actual power.  A figurehead, he is expected to sign into law the legislation passed by parliament.  So if Charles was an ardent advocate of CO2 reduction making an impassioned speech at COP26 in Glasgow, for COP27 now, as king, he can only be an observer while his prime minister with diametrically opposite views mounts the stage there.

Sweden’s climate activist, Greta Thunberg, seems tired.  She is talking about someone else taking over the megaphone, and who can blame her.  For all her efforts, the Swedish September 22 election resulted in a coalition government led by Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristerson which included the Sweden Democrats (SD).  Party names in Sweden seem designed to confuse — the SD is far-right, anti-immigration (the possible source of its votes) and will for the first time exercise direct influence on policy.

It is quite a reversal from the government it replaces.  That was the Social Democrats, who remain the largest party in parliament but are now in opposition, their center-left bloc having been unable to secure enough seats to form a majority government. 

Sweden uses proportional representation for almost all the seats, namely, the proportion of votes received allocates the seats, which the party then fills from its list.  The problems ensue from the fact that parties with extreme views can garner enough votes to be allocated seats as has happened this time. 

Humans trying to govern themselves is not a new problem.  So if the Gunpowder Plot did not succeed against James I, his son Charles I was to lose his head (literally) to the Roundheads led by Cromwell.  It would be a while before the people tired of the puritan Roundheads and Charles II would be able to recapture the throne, and, with sufficient respect for parliament, to stay on it — the memory of his father having started the habit of compromise.  Over time power was gradually eased away from the throne by parliament.

The venue for COP27 is Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.  A stone’s throw to the south lies Saudi Arabia, a giant oil producer.  Eastwards lies Iran and to the north lie Russia and Kazakhstan, all oil producers.  And east of Russia is China, the greatest fossil fuel guzzler.  Its ruler Mr. Xi Jinping wants full-steam ahead for the economy.  He wants to overtake the US, another fossil fuel guzzler (and producer).

What hope for the dreams of Greta Thunberg …

Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.