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Monday, October 11, 2021

Will public pressure force sceptical MPs to act on climate change?

There is an interesting article in the Independent suggesting Tory MPs like Iain Duncan Smith, John Redwood and Steve Baker, who are opposed to proposals to help the UK meet its legal commitment of ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050 because they are too costly, may well be out-of-step with their own constituents.

The paper says that polling carried out in their constituencies by Greenpeace reveals big majorities support the UK going further and faster, in the run-up to the crucial Cop26 summit in Glasgow next month:

In all three seats, around two-thirds of voters said the government should be “doing more” to address the climate crisis – while under a quarter said it was “doing the right amount”.

More than 70 per cent of adults in each constituency want the UK to be “one of the most ambitious countries in the world” – rather than wait for bigger countries, such as China, to take tougher action.

Between 64 and 71 per cent want gas boilers phased out and households given help to replace them with low-carbon emission heat pumps – a key current controversy.

And large majorities say that climate will be a “key issue for me at the next general election” in Sir Iain’s seat (67 per cent), Sir John’s (66 per cent) and Mr Baker’s (63 per cent).

Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s policy director, called the trio “political dinosaurs seeking voters who have largely gone extinct within their own constituencies”.

And he warned the government of “a mutiny brewing” among voters unless it stopped “pandering to climate-laggard MPs that quite clearly fail to represent their views”.

“Lots of research and polling shows voters want the government to do more to tackle the climate crisis and they want them to do it fairly,” Mr Parr said.

“People understand that people on low incomes need to be protected, but that we can’t afford not to implement these policies.”

In the run-up to Cop26, Tory infighting has appeared to slam the brakes on CO2-cutting measures to put the UK on a path to net zero, with just three weeks until the summit.

Long-promised strategies to replace gas boilers and insulate homes have yet to appear – while the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, came under fire for failing to even mention climate in his conference speech.

Unfortunately, this polling does not appear to have moved the sceptics from their position:

The Tory trio have warned the party’s new ‘Red Wall’ voters will not accept higher household costs – or criticised the UK for acting while fast-developing nations drag their heels.

Sir Iain, who must defend a tiny majority of 1,262 in Chingford and Woodford Green, in north east London, has accused Boris Johnson of a “frenzied determination to hit the arbitrary net zero target”.

He claimed that “weaning Britain off petrol and onto electric cars” would result in a “growing dependency on a brutal Chinese regime”, where most batteries are made.

Sir John, who enjoys a 7,383 majority in Wokingham, asked, in August: “Why should UK people be told to fit expensive heat pumps they don’t want and can’t afford, when China and Germany keep on burning coal on an industrial scale to dominate export markets?”

And Mr Baker, who leads by 4,214 votes in Wycombe, became a trustee of the climate-sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation, set up by former chancellor, Nigel Lawson, to challenge “harmful” CO2-cutting policies.

“We’ll have another absolute political fiasco if we don’t confront the cost of net zero now,” he said in August – warning Tory voters would desert to Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party.

I suppose we will have to wait until the next general election to see whether the voters in these three constituencies are prepared to cast their votes for change or to keep the dinosaurs in place.
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