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?

6a00d83451b31c69e20120a7e318b8970b-500wi

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.

 

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.