Climate politics: the many versus the few. Photo: Getty
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The Tories stand up for the privileged few on climate change

The Tory lurch to the right has shattered the cross-party consensus on climate change policy

This week has seen a major shift in the politics of climate change. Where there was once consensus there is now a struggle between the many who want climate action and the privileged few who want to preserve the status quo.

David Cameron’s former environment secretary Owen Paterson wants to rip up the Climate Change Act 2008. Since his speech on Wednesday not a single Conservative minister has come out to say that they disagree. The lack of protest suggests that repealing the act would be policy under a Conservative majority in 2015.

No one should be in any doubt that Owen Paterson speaks for the majority view in the Conservative party. Three quarters of Conservative party MPs don’t agree with the scientific consensus on climate change. David Cameron is the Prime Minister who went from leading the "greenest Government ever" to ditching the "green crap".

The Committee on Climate Change – the government’s own independent advisers have warned that the UK under David Cameron are likely to miss the carbon targets the last Labour government committed us to meeting. The Tory-led government failed to set a 2030 decarbonisation target. They’ve held back green growth and jobs by refusing to give the Green Investment Bank any borrowing powers. They even removed flood protection from the priorities of the environment department when Owen Paterson was in charge.

The loss of the all-party consensus achieved to legislate for emission reductions caused by the Tory lurch to the right is bad news for those who wish to tackle climate change. It must make Labour even more determined to be resolute in reducing emissions.

Our food, our water, the air we breathe – the future of our planet as climate change threatens – nothing could be more important than these things for our generation – and for our children and their children too. These are the people that the Labour party stands up for. They are the many who Ed Miliband stood up for when he brought the Climate Change Act into legislation and it’s why he’s put climate change at the heart of his vision for the new economy.

The Conservative party only stand up for the privileged few who deny that climate change is even happening. The vested interests who want to preserve the old economy that can’t work for ordinary people or the planet. It was against these interests that hundreds of thousands of people marched on the streets of the world’s capital cities last month in support of climate action.

That’s why the next election will be the most important for a generation. We need a government that will take climate change and the environment seriously. That can only be a Labour government led by Ed Miliband that champions the green agenda to build a cleaner, greener economy for the many not the few.

Maria Eagle MP is Labour MP for Garston and Halewood and shadow environment secretary

Maria Eagle is the shadow secretary of state for defence and Labour MP for Garston and Halewood

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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.