It says something about politics that a single gaffe tells you more about a high-profile figure than a hundred well-crafted ministerial speeches. So it was with Andrew Mitchell's supposed "plebs" outburst, and so it is now with the revelation that George Osborne refers dismissively in private to something called the "environmental Taliban". That he sees people who promote sustainable energy as irrational extremists shows how the Chancellor has become both out of touch with the modern world and increasingly isolated within the Government itself.
The "Taliban" reference smears all of us who care about the future. It is also the opposite of reality. It is not those working to avert dangerous climate change who are the faith-based ideologues, but those who deny the overwhelming evidence on global warming, who use smears in their desperate battle to defend fossil fuels and stymie the progress that this country is finally making towards cleaning up its energy supply.
So who are Osborne's "environmental Taliban"? These days, it is more than just Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace activists who will feel offended. So will the entire renewables industry, which has notched up a significant success as Britain becomes the leading nation worldwide in offshore wind-installed capacity (albeit with turbines manufactured abroad). So also will the Nuclear Industry Association, which depends for the future on the aggressive decarbonisation programme for which Osborne now seems to be the main opponent.
Make no mistake: the Taliban coalition in favour of sustainable energy is broadening all the time. Under the guise of the CBI, whose director, John Cridland, is a strong backer of the greening agenda, it now includes probably the majority of British business. And it also includes much of the Government, not least the entire Department for Energy and Climate Change. Osborne should watch out – the environmental Taliban are everywhere. We have the Chancellor surrounded and firmly on the defensive.Reuse content