Conservative MP and former cabinet minister John Redwood. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

John Redwood: I don't understand why Carswell has defected to Ukip

Leading Tory eurosceptic says Carswell's decision doesn't make sense after Cameron's EU referendum pledge. 

The most puzzling aspect of Douglas Carswell's defection to Ukip is that he had got what he most wanted: a promise of an in/out EU referendum from David Cameron. Indeed, the PM has gone further and vowed to resign if he is to unable to deliver on his pledge after the general election. At his press conference with Nigel Farage this morning, Carswell declared that the Tories were not seeking "real change" in Britain's relationship with the EU. But if true, this still leaves him and others free to campaign for a No vote when the referendum comes (something, as I noted yesterday, that only Tories have guaranteed). 

It's for this reason that many of Carswell's eurosceptic colleagues are bemused and angered by his decision. Bill Cash, the EU's most vociferous parliamentary critic, accused him of "self-defeating political vanity" and said he would help put Ed Miliband in No.10.

I've just been speaking to John Redwood, another famed eurosceptic, who told me that he didn't understand Carswell's decision. He saidL 

It's a curious decision by Douglas, it's too late really. I could just about have understood it if he had defected a couple of years ago, when he and I and others were pressing for the Conservative Party to say that the EU relationship didn't work, we were pressing for a renegotiation, and we were pressing for the promise of a referendum. I would have urged him then not to do it, I would have thought we could probably win in five. 

Now we've won it's very curious to leave, isn't it? I want to stay and see it through. My message to Douglas, if he'd told me beforehand, would have been 'look, we're very close to winning now, we've got the offers we want, and we've got to see it through and deliver.' If he is seriously worried that the Prime Minister won't negotiate a strong enough package, he needn't worry because the British people will then vote to get out; you've got the popular lock on the door that Douglas always wanted. 

Redwood added that he thought it was "extremely unlikely" that others would follow Carswell and defect.  "I couldn't name anybody who's going to do that, and I know most of them pretty well. There's nobody as independent as Douglas. I wouldn't have been able to predict Douglas's movements, because he always operated largely on his own." 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496