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The Week That Was: What's the Alternative?

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I'm spending my weekend in my hometown of Stroud, where the only business showing signs of flourishing (bar the sausage stall in the farmers' market), is Ecotricity.

The green energy company, whose signs dominate some of the largest buildings in the town centre, has made national headlines this week thanks to its charismatic founder's bid to take the world land-speed record for electric cars in a modified Lotus Exige, originally bought on eBay.

Dale Vince, who has attained something of cult status in hippy-heavy Stroud, told the BBC, "We built the Nemesis to smash the stereotype of electric cars as something Noddy would drive - slow, boring not cool."

Vince makes a pretty good living making boring things, like energy, cool, not to mention profitable. Ecotricity's new home is in a swanky building that used to house a large building society, long since gone.

He actually didn't want the swanky one; he wanted the Seventies monstrosity a mile from my parents' house, which has been empty ever since I can remember. The owners blocked his bid, content for it to continue sitting surrounded by security fences and its walls covered in graffiti (not the cool kind) for reasons best known only to a business man in a suit somewhere.

If one man in Stroud can find a viable alternative to powering cars over 150mph, surely the best brains in the country can work out how to pull Britain through the recession? Written like that, it sounds so simple, doesn't it?

So, if there's a consensus that what we're doing now isn't working, what is the alternative?

Certainly in Europe, the politicians haven't convinced the electorate that austerity is the way forward. Witness the general strikes in Greece and rioting in Spain. When there is no alternative, people take the law into their own hands.

And even if austerity was the short-term fix, we definitely haven't heard what happens afterwards. Where is the plan for re-employing all those who have lost their jobs, and the plan for re-opening all those businesses that have gone to the wall?

A third of the way through the party political conference season, surely now is the time when ideas should not only be being discussed but shouted from the roof-tops.

Instead, apologies are being punted out via YouTube or on mugs, you did see the sell-out Nick Clegg 'I'm sorry' souvenir mugs from the Lib Dem conference, didn't you? And the leader of the country is appearing on David Letterman attempting to prove to middle America that Tony Blair isn't the prime minister anymore.

I'm listening really, really hard, and I still don't think I've heard any good ones yet.

And to the people in charge of the country, if you can't come up with some good alternatives, it's highly likely we'll start looking for alternatives to you instead.

Right now, Dale Vince has my vote, and not just because I have a soft spot for people who come from Stroud.