After the chaos subsided Friday morning and the election spoils were split evenly among the three main parties, the search for the biggest losers of by-election night began. Today, after the initial stages of Uxbridge-induced shock have passed, and the phase of reflection and learning has quickly moved to the phase of action, it seems clear. Ultimately, it is the already endangered eco-conscious Conservatives, the so-called Green Conservatives, who are likely to suffer the most.
This comes after the Conservatives narrowly won seats in Uxbridge and South Ruislip by 495 votes following an election campaign that used London’s Labor Mayor Sadiq Khan’s opposition to his plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ). The winning candidate, Steve Tuckwell, told cheering Conservative activists on Friday morning that the opposition to the ULEZ “lost Labor in this election”.
With astonishing conformity, net-zero-skeptic Conservative MPs have since used the Uxbridge result to argue that the election offers Mr Sunak an opportunity to reassess the course of the election.
So far, the most senior of these siren voices is leveling up Secretary Michael Gove. A veteran minister who held the post of environment secretary when the government enacted a goal of net zero by 2050 denounced “climate change activists”, saying: Sunday Telegraph He wants to relax current plans to introduce stricter minimum energy efficiency standards for landlords by 2028.
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It is worth noting that other backbench lawmakers are even more ill-fitting to the government’s net-zero pledge.Comments on the Uxbridge results GBNewsformer business secretary Sir Jacob Reese Mogg said: [electorally] We are trying to do away with unpopular and expensive environmental policies. Craig McKinley, chair of the controversial Conservative MPs’ net-zero scrutiny group, has warned Snack against pursuing “prohibitive costs, fees and taxes” related to Britain’s plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Gove et al.’s essential argument is that while British voters may declare to pollsters that they value green politics, they will ultimately reject policies that impose a personal burden. In this view, the best path forward for the Conservatives to recover in the next election would be to minimize or even fall back on the net zero target.
On Monday, as speculation reached a fever pitch that the government could begin scrapping the net-zero policy, a spokesperson for Rishi Sunak suggested that such a policy was under ongoing consideration, albeit without a formal or concrete review. The remarks came after the Prime Minister himself affirmed that he wants to make “proportional and realistic” progress towards net zero by 2050, but that “it will not unnecessarily add more hassle or cost to people’s lives”.
It is certainly possible that Rishi Sunak could undertake to end the pursuit of net zero policies, including a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 and a £120 annual tax on low-carbon hydrogen development funds. After all, our Prime Minister is far from a zealous proselyte to environmentalism.
While recent prime ministers have made green credentials a virtue, especially Boris Johnson, where many of the above policies were introduced, and Theresa May, who enacted a 2050 net-zero target into law when she took office, Rishi Sunak’s lack of environmental enthusiasm seems to be a common theme throughout her tenure. The prime minister’s former international environment minister, Zach Goldsmith, said last month that “the prime minister has no motivation, no interest and no heart on these issues.”
The Climate Change Commission, led by Green Conservative chief executive Lord Deben, was similarly shivering at the verdict that the government had failed to make real zero progress. The CCC warned that the government was off track in 41 of its 50 key targets, and that confidence in the government that future “carbon budgets” would be met had eroded “significantly” over the past year.
It’s no secret that the prime minister’s chatter about his climate change pledges echoes Conservative lawmakers’ concerns that a shift in political focus is needed.
Strategically, the prime minister’s “five priorities” remain, but apart from last week’s good news on inflation, all other indicators seem to point in the wrong direction. So, rumors are circulating that the Number 10 is now hostage to the Prime Minister’s ill-fated New Year’s vows, aiming for a broader “reset” of the approach, while the core tenets of snakism, deliberately defined on the basis of strict administrative policies, are being overthrown.
I wrote earlier that Prime Minister Sunak’s five-pronged strategy is under strain, and he may start reaching for “dead cats” to get political bailouts. The idea is that with Mr. Sunak defeated in the five-promise debate and the narrative no longer decisively playing out in his favor, the prime minister should come up with a new offensive that is so shocking that the media can’t help but notice it. Apparently, the anti-green blitz will follow this approach.
But the prime minister has already escalated government activity on environmental policy for some time. Using the unpopular “stop oil” tactic, Sunak alleged that “these eco-enthusiasts… appear to be writing Kia Starmer’s energy policy” are suspicious. Energy security and net zero chief Grant Shaps branded the Labor Party “the political arm of Just Stop Oil” and urged Keir Starmer to pay for the group’s operations.
Furthermore, in an interview financial times Shaps said last week the government pledged to “make the most of” Britain’s remaining North Sea oil and gas reserves. This represented a clear attempt to draw a line with the Labor Party. Kia Starmer’s party has pledged no new North Sea permits if it wins the next general election.
So, in fact, the government is already trying to make the pace and scale of net-zero an issue in the next general election. This is the Prime Minister’s attempt to push through Labor’s hand in picking areas where Sir Keir has already suggested that he will not follow the government’s approach. Of course, one of his obvious lessons from Selby, Somerton and even Uxbridge is that the central challenge for the Conservative Party is to motivate the electorate. Many electors chose to stay at home rather than vote for Labor or the Liberal Democrats. That could be exactly what happens when culture war hostilities intensify with a focus on environmental issues.
There are also rumors that the Conservative party conference in October could put together a new final-year pledge that the prime minister will focus on in the next general election. Don’t be surprised if this is a pledge on “energy security” and comes alongside new goals for drilling in the North Sea. The government appears intent on using Mr. Sturmer’s supposed green strengths against him ahead of the general elections expected in 2024.
https://www.politics.co.uk/news-feature/2023/07/25/rishi-sunaks-tilt-at-a-net-zero-culture-war-is-a-sign-of-things-to-come/ Rishi Sunak’s devotion to ‘net zero culture wars’ is a sign of things to come