The Tories haven't gone green

Tackling climate change is the lowest priority for Tory candidates

David Cameron may have used the slogan "Vote blue, go green" in the past but, judging by the views of his party's candidates, it's one he'd be wise not to repeat at the election.

A new survey of 141 Tory candidates in the party's most winnable seats by ConservativeHome and ConservativeIntelligence has found that reducing Britain's carbon footprint is their lowest political priority (see chart). Just eight of the party's candidates said it would be a top priority for them in the next parliament.

If Cameron can't persuade his own party that the environment should be a priority, he's unlikely to persuade the electorate that it should be. And if this is the state of affairs under an ostensibly green leader, just where would Tory opinion lie under a climate-change sceptic such as David Davis?

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But the truth is that Cameron's own interest in the environment has diminished visibly in recent times. His green credentials were discredited by his decision to court Václav Klaus, the climate-change-denying Czech president. He has refused to advocate the levels of taxation and regulation needed to reduce environmentally damaging behaviour.

The Conservative Party seems increasingly to have assumed that Cameron's initial focus on the environment was merely part of his early mission to ''detoxify" the Tory brand. He has said little since to disprove this assumption.

It is now clearer than ever that no environmentally responsible individual can risk a vote for the Tories at the election.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.