Dog whistle politics. Photo: Channel 4 News screengrab
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Without the Lib Dems, there would be nothing to stop the Tories neglecting the environment

Green blues.

It's hard to imagine now, but it's not that long ago that David Cameron was still bandying about the slogan: "vote blue, go green." He once championed himself as a Tory moderniser on the environment. But we've come a long way since the days of trips to the Arctic and hugging huskies. Cameron now openly talks about "getting rid of green crap," while Tory minister Michael Fallon has said the Tories would stop the construction of onshore wind farms if they win in 2015. As we near the general election, the Conservatives are rapidly abandoning any pretence that they care about the green agenda.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the European Parliament, where the Tories are completely unrestricted by the constraints of coalition government. Time and again Conservative MEPs have shown their true colours when it comes to EU environmental measures, and they are definitely not green. They voted down EU measures to restrict the destructive practice of deep-sea fishing. They've opposed efforts to reduce plastic bag use and tackle the scourge of plastic waste in our oceans. And they've repeatedly voted against efforts to strengthen the EU's carbon emissions trading scheme, Europe's landmark policy for fighting climate change.

Yesterday, the Tories showed their true colours yet again when MEPs voted on EU proposals to tackle air pollution, which the new European Commission is threatening to withdraw or water down in its drive to cut red tape. This is being rightly opposed by many MEPs, including Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder who's leading the charge to keep these proposals on the table. We all want to see moves to make EU regulation smarter and more efficient, but that shouldn't come at the expense of the air we breathe. Air pollution now causes an estimated 29,000 premature deaths in the UK each year, almost as many as smoking. And with 40% of the most deadly pollutants coming from elsewhere in the EU, it's clear that we need urgent action on this across Europe.

Yet Conservative MEPs refused to stand up for these vital measures to improve air quality, voting against key amendments to prevent them being delayed and calling for them to be watered down to "reduce administrative burdens." It seems that for the Tories, laws that protect the environment and improve people's quality of life are just more red tape to be slashed. They fail to see that moving towards a cleaner, greener economy isn't just the right thing to do for the planet. It's the best to way to secure future growth and jobs.

The Conservatives' approach to the environment in Europe shows what sort of approach they would take if they are allowed to govern alone. In coalition, Liberal Democrats have fought to make sure that the environment has stayed at the top of the agenda. We've doubled the amount of energy generated from offshore wind and stopped the Tories from slashing support for renewable energy. And while senior Conservative politicians voice their doubts about man-made climate change, Energy Secretary Ed Davey has been busy paving the way for a global deal to cut carbon emissions. Without the Lib Dems, there would be nothing to stop the Tories from lurching to the right on the environment. The truth is, the only way to make blue go green is by adding yellow.

Tim Farron is Lib Dem MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Photo: Getty
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The campaign to keep Britain in Europe must be based on hope, not fear

Together we can show the world a generous, outward-facing Britain we can all be proud of.

Today the Liberal Democrats launched our national campaign to keep Britain in Europe. With the polls showing the outcome of this referendum is on a knife-edge, our party is determined to play a decisive role in this once in a generation fight. This will not be an easy campaign. But it is one we will relish as the UK's most outward-looking and internationalist party. Together in Europe the UK has delivered peace, created the world’s largest free trade area and given the British people the opportunity to live, work and travel freely across the continent. Now is the time to build on these achievements, not throw them all away.

Already we are hearing fear-mongering from both sides in this heated debate. On the one hand, Ukip and the feuding Leave campaigns have shamelessly seized on the events in Cologne at New Year to claim that British women will be at risk if the UK stays in Europe. On the other, David Cameron claims that the refugees he derides as a "bunch of migrants" in Calais will all descend on the other side of the Channel the minute Britain leaves the EU. The British public deserve better than this. Rather than constant mud-slinging and politicising of the world's biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, we need a frank and honest debate about what is really at stake. Most importantly this should be a positive campaign, one that is fought on hope and not on fear. As we have a seen in Scotland, a referendum won through scare tactics alone risks winning the battle but losing the war.

The voice of business and civil society, from scientists and the police to environmental charities, have a crucial role to play in explaining how being in the EU benefits the British economy and enhances people's everyday lives. All those who believe in Britain's EU membership must not be afraid to speak out and make the positive case why being in Europe makes us more prosperous, stable and secure. Because at its heart this debate is not just about facts and figures, it is about what kind of country we want to be.

The Leave campaigns cannot agree what they believe in. Some want the UK to be an offshore, deregulated tax haven, others advocate a protectionist, mean-hearted country that shuts it doors to the world. As with so many populist movements, from Putin to Trump, they are defined not by what they are for but what they are against. Their failure to come up with a credible vision for our country's future is not patriotic, it is irresponsible.

This leaves the field open to put forward a united vision of Britain's place in Europe and the world. Liberal Democrats are clear what we believe in: an open, inclusive and tolerant nation that stands tall in the world and doesn't hide from it. We are not uncritical of the EU's institutions. Indeed as Liberals, we fiercely believe that power must be devolved to the lowest possible level, empowering communities and individuals wherever possible to make decisions for themselves. But we recognise that staying in Europe is the best way to find the solutions to the problems that don't stop at borders, rather than leaving them to our children and grandchildren. We believe Britain must put itself at the heart of our continent's future and shape a more effective and more accountable Europe, focused on responding to major global challenges we face.

Together in Europe we can build a strong and prosperous future, from pioneering research into life-saving new medicines to tackling climate change and fighting international crime. Together we can provide hope for the desperate and spread the peace we now take for granted to the rest of the world. And together we can show the world a generous, outward-facing Britain we can all be proud of. So if you agree then join the Liberal Democrat campaign today, to remain in together, and to stand up for the type of Britain you think we should be.