Cameron considers abandoning Tory support for nuclear power

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Indy Politics

The Tories may drop their long-standing support for nuclear power despite claims by some experts that it could help to combat climate change.

David Cameron, who yesterday put the environment at the heart of the Tory campaign for next month's local elections, accused Tony Blair of prejudging the Government's energy review in favour of a new generation of nuclear power stations. Mr Blair is expected to back giving nuclear power a new lease of life on the ground that it would help tackle global warming - in line with the views of Sir David King, the Government's chief scientist.

The Tories are conducting a wholesale review of their energy policy, which will reach conclusions this summer. Officials say the party leadership has "a completely open mind" and its traditional support for nuclear power will count for nothing. If the Tories oppose more nuclear plants, Mr Blair would look isolated, with Liberal Democrats and many Labour MPs hostile.

Alan Duncan, the shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, who is heading the Tories' energy review, said he was starting with "a clean piece of paper". He added: "We will go in any direction in which the facts take us. It will be the most thorough and evidence-based review that it is possible for an opposition to have."

Today, the Tories will back an expansion of renewable energy such as wind, wave and solar power by endorsing a "sustainable energy manifesto" produced by an alliance of 35 pressure groups, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

Mr Duncan said: "Climate change is a real threat and the party is committed to providing realistic policies to reduce carbon emissions."

Mr Cameron, who begins a trip to Norway today, where he will see a glacier that has lost up to half its mass in the past century, said the Tories' "dispassionate" review would not favour any one technology.

He said: "We should be asking ourselves: how can we guarantee a security of supply, have a challenging target for reducing carbon, make sure we have a balanced and sensible approach to energy in this country - and ask ourselves whether nuclear is going to be part of that mix. Let's do the work first, and not have pre-conceived notions."

Under the slogan "vote blue to go green", Mr Cameron said Tory-run councils were leading the way on green issues, such as recycling, litter, carbon emissions, noise pollution and transport.

The Tory leader said: "Solutions to big global problems are often found at the local level. Local government is in the frontline of the fight for a better quality of life."

Labour claimed the Tories' "vote blue to go green" reinforced their decision to portray Mr Cameron as "Dave the Chameleon" in a computer-generated party election broadcast last night. The reptile changes his colours according to which audience he addresses - going green when he speaks about the environment - but remains "Tory blue" underneath.

Labour denied resorting to personal attacks, but Mr Cameron said: "Labour is clearly showing that it has run out of steam, run out of ideas, run out of positive things to contribute."

Tonight the Tories will screen a "personal political broadcast", including interviews with the public and computer animation showing how Tory councillors are improving the environment.

The Green Party accused Mr Cameron of "giving even tokenism a bad name". Keith Taylor, the party's principal speaker, said: "Cameron's attempts to manufacture an image of environmental concern convince no one. There is neither understanding nor consensus within the Tories about climate change."