Lunch with... Baroness Worthington

Written by Anoosh Chakelian on 28 November 2013 in Culture
The environmentalist chews over fossil fuels, fracking and joining the House of Lords, with Anoosh Chakelian. Photo by Jack Lawson

Bryony Worthington is an environmental campaigner and Labour life peer. She entered the House of Lords in 2011, where she became Baroness Worthington of Cambridge. When working in government, she helped draft the Climate Change Bill.

The restaurant

Caxton Grill

Hovering inconspicuously behind St James’s Park tube, this bright, roomy restaurant serves experimental, often artistically deconstructed dishes that transport it from ‘grill’ status to something more modern. Its meat and fish basics remain the highlight.

The menu

Starter Salad of roast cauliflower; truffle Jerusalem artichoke velouté.

Main Tunbridge Wells lamb with milk, leeks and artichokes; Scottish salmon with truffle and parmesan chips.

Dessert Poached pear, fennel meringues, walnut oil, pomegranate, poire Williams sorbet; Granny Smith cheesecake, blueberry muffins, hazelnut mayonnaise, frozen yoghurt.

We drank Still water and elderflower pressé.

We discussed

Energy companies I used to work for SSE, one of the Big Six, so I know them from the inside… I was privileged because I learnt a huge amount, and to respect many of the people working there, because they do quite a difficult job keeping the lights on. Often the Big Six generate the power, sell it, keep the wires operating – they do everything… Certainly, they have too much market power, and tend to act as a chorus. They are an oligopoly – a ‘cartel’ involves a lot more collusion. They’re more like sheep than anything else.

Joining the Lords I got announced a week before I gave birth, so in terms of life-changing events, having the baby was way more impactful… It was actually Neil and Glenys Kinnock who told me, ‘If you want to vote with your baby, sit in the voting lobby before the vote’s called. You can then walk through the Tellers without having to go through the chamber.’ So Neil Kinnock worked out a way for me to do it.

Being green I’m not a big believer in it being the individual’s responsibility. It’s up to governments to legislate, regulate and move us off fossil fuels. I find recycling bottles really depressing. You know when you hear them smash? That’s all their energy gone… Certain things about recycling are really not great – we seem to have gone in at the recycling level and forgotten about the upstream reduce and reuse; I find that sad.

Fracking If fracking proves to be a way of getting low-cost gas to replace coal, then it’s got a role to play. Personally I don’t think it’s going to do that here. Even if it does, it’s not going to be here for another 10 years so it’s not today’s issue. It’s actually a bit of an annoying distraction. Really, we need all those campaigners relocated to outside coal-fired power stations, not stopping test rigs in Balcombe. It isn’t where the climate debate should be.

Lib–Lab coalition In terms of whether it would’ve been better [to have a Lib–Lab coalition to pass the Energy Bill] – definitely, definitely, definitely! Whether it will happen in the future, I don’t know. People far higher up than me in the food chain will make those decisions. I have great colleagues who are green in the Tory Party; there are lots of good greenies in the Lib Dems. I don’t see it as party political. It shouldn’t have to be, but now the Tories are veering off. That means it’s obvious a Lib–Lab coalition would be stronger and more united on green issues.

HS2 It’s odd that you can get on a train at King’s Cross and go to Paris on a high-speed rail but you can’t get to Edinburgh or Manchester. So, just for our own integrity and infrastructure, high-speed rail makes sense, but it’s got to be within manageable costs.

Perfect for Those who enjoy tradition with a twist.

Not suitable for Veggies.

The cost Pricey – most mains are over £23.

To book a table at the Caxton Grill, call 0800 652 1498

Tags: Issue 64

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