Cameron's image as green leader goes up in smoke

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Indy Politics

David Cameron's campaign for the green vote suffered a setback when it emerged that he is followed by his official car when he cycles to work.

Mr Cameron has been regularly photographed cycling the five miles from his west London home to Westminster. In fact, he is often followed by his Lexus car, whose driver picks up shoes, clothes and documents the Tory leader cannot carry on his bike.

A Tory spokesman admitted yesterday that the party leader could not transport many of his papers while cycling. He said: "David Cameron has always enjoyed cycling and if he could carry all of the boxes of documents for work on his bike, then he would. But he has changed his car for one that has lower carbon emissions, and has also made other personal changes to help the environment, such as making his new home more energy-efficient and changing his electricity supply to renewable energy."

Chris Huhne, environment spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "This makes a nonsense of David Cameron's commitment to cycling as the most environmentally-friendly way of getting to work. If everyone with green leanings now needs a shoe chauffeur, the environment will be ruined.

"As a matter of urgency, I will personally buy and deliver to Mr Cameron a pannier for him to put over his back wheels so that he can cycle to work while leaving his shoe chauffeur at home."

The Tory leader faced further embarrassment when Patrick McLoughlin, the Conservative chief whip, sent all 196 Tory MPs a pager message advising those who drive big gas-guzzling cars to avoid the main entrance to the Commons on Parliament Square and to enter undetected via the House of Lords. Tory chiefs feared the sight of their MPs arriving in Land Rovers, Mercedes and BMWs would undermine Mr Cameron's "vote blue, go green" pitch ahead of the local elections in England next Thursday.

Several Tory frontbenchers are planning to change to more environmentally-friendly carsas the media spotlight falls on their choice of vehicle. They include Oliver Letwin, the Tories' policy chief, who drives a diesel Land Rover Discovery; Theresa Villiers, a Treasury spokesman, who has a diesel Land Rover Defender and Andrew Mitchell, the international development spoke-sman, who has a Jaguar XK8. Peter Ainsworth, the environment spokesman, drives a Mitsubushi Grandis people carrier in his East Surrey constituency.

Lord Heseltine, the former Environment Secretary who is now advising the Tories on the inner cities, has warned Mr Cameron not to rely too heavily on his pitch for the green vote. Interviewed on Straight Talk on BBC News 24, Lord Heseltine said: "You've got to watch that you're not seen to be just taking a fashionable issue - and I'm sure that he will recognise that. But he's got to change people's impression of the party. He's got to come over genuinely believing that he's concerned about the big issues, about the sort of centre ground issues, and the polls all show he's begun to do that."