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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Theresa May knows she's talking nonsense - here's why she's doing it

The Prime Minister's argument increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in her words - the Tories your vote.

Good morning.  Angela Merkel and Theresa May are more similar politicians than people think, and that holds true for Brexit too. The German Chancellor gave a speech yesterday, and the message: Brexit means Brexit.

Of course, the emphasis is slightly different. When May says it, it's about reassuring the Brexit elite in SW1 that she isn't going to backslide, and anxious Remainers and soft Brexiteers in the country that it will work out okay in the end.

When Merkel says it, she's setting out what the EU wants and the reality of third country status outside the European Union.  She's also, as with May, tilting to her own party and public opinion in Germany, which thinks that the UK was an awkward partner in the EU and is being even more awkward in the manner of its leaving.

It's a measure of how poor the debate both during the referendum and its aftermath is that Merkel's bland statement of reality - "A third-party state - and that's what Britain will be - can't and won't be able to have the same rights, let alone a better position than a member of the European Union" - feels newsworthy.

In the short term, all this helps Theresa May. Her response - delivered to a carefully-selected audience of Leeds factory workers, the better to avoid awkward questions - that the EU is "ganging up" on Britain is ludicrous if you think about it. A bloc of nations acting in their own interest against their smaller partners - colour me surprised!

But in terms of what May wants out of this election - a massive majority that gives her carte blanche to implement her agenda and puts Labour out of contention for at least a decade - it's a great message. It increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in May's words - the Tories your vote. You may be unhappy about the referendum result, you may usually vote Labour - but on this occasion, what's needed is a one-off Tory vote to make Brexit a success.

May's message is silly if you pay any attention to how the EU works or indeed to the internal politics of the EU27. That doesn't mean it won't be effective.

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

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