Charles Kennedy: 'Cameron has learnt all the wrong lessons from New Labour'

From a speech by the leader of the Liberal Democrats to an audience of environmental charities, delivered at Portcullis House, in Westminster

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I wrote to the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties with a view to creating a cross-party agreement on the environment. The Prime Minister dismissed this out of hand. He has made no effort to engage opposition parties in meaningful dialogue on the environment. Instead he demands that we fall in behind their failing policies.

The Conservatives at least began to take up the challenge. Norman Baker has worked with Oliver Letwin to see how far consensus could be achieved. But the reality is the Liberal Democrats diverge radically from the Conservatives on environmental policy. So it has not been an easy process. The Conservatives wish to scrap the climate change levy but have offered no viable alternative. They are pro-nuclear.

The new leader, David Cameron, used his acceptance speech to call for a major new road-building programme This suggests that Cameron remains wedded to the old-fashioned thinking that ignores the root of the problem. They have now instituted an 18-month environment policy review. The Conservatives are the Johnny-come-latelies to the green agenda.

At the moment, Cameron is merely relying on the spin that has blackened Tony Blair's reputation. He has failed to realise that while the public respect Tony Blair's determination, they despise his presentational politics. It would appear that David Cameron has learnt all the wrong lessons from New Labour. And looks set to repeat their mistakes.

Changing attitudes and behaviour requires the kind of courage that has been lacking in political classes across the world. We need to transform politics so that we can take on the challenge of climate change.

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