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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The new green Tories?

We have already seen the spectacle of David Cameron, the cyclist, being followed to the House of Commons by a car carrying all his stuff, now we have further evidence that the greenness of the new cuddly Tory party is just skin deep. Questions are also raised about how donors are kept at arms length from the policy making process in the Conservatives.

The Independent On Sunday report that one of the 10 multi-millionaire businessmen regularly funding David Cameron's private flights has boasted of how he helped to shape the Conservative Party's energy policy.

They say that the Tory leader has used the personal plane of Yorkshire steel magnate Andrew Cook 10 times in the past two years, including six occasions in the month before June's local and European elections. Mr Cook's firm, William Cook Holdings, makes equipment for high-speed rail travel, which is one of the most prominent policies of a future Tory government:

Mr Cook is among 10 rich businessmen with a combined fortune of £3bn who provided 60 flights by private jet and helicopter totalling more than 20,000 miles – the equivalent of a return flight from London to Sydney. The revelation gave the impression – together with the row over Alan Duncan's complaint about MPs' "rations" and MEP Daniel Hannan's attack on the NHS – that Mr Cameron is struggling to throw off the old image of the Tories as the "nasty party" with close links to the super-rich. Mr Cook, who is worth £80m, told The Independent on Sunday that he had "expressly" told senior Tories two years ago they needed a coherent energy policy. While tidal power and carbon capture and storage are backed by environmentalists, the suggestion that a future Tory government's policies are being shaped by rich donors will cause concern in some quarters.

In an email to the IoS, Mr Cook wrote: "My experience as an industrialist in an energy intensive industry has given me a certain special knowledge of energy matters. I am a wealthy man and I support David Cameron and the Conservative Party. This is why I give them money and lend him my plane to travel around the country. My express words to them when I commissioned the policy were: 'You need an energy policy because the lights will start going out in five years and this will be on your watch.' That was nearly two years ago."

Mr. Cook is right of course that the Tories need an energy policy but how can the Tory leader justify so many short haul internal flights on private planes whilst at the same time extolling a greener future for our country?
We all need to do our bit to reverse global cooling!
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