Leading article: Mr Cameron's green tinge risks turning dark blue

The Tory leader chose environment issues as a symbol of modernising his party

Share
Related Topics

One area where the troubled Coalition might have been expected to show a radical and unified sense of purpose is in relation to environmental policies. Before the formation of the Coalition, the Liberal Democrats had taken a consistently radical stance on most so-called green issues, a theme that united the party's disparate followers. David Cameron defined his leadership in opposition by a new focus on the environment. "Vote Blue. Go Green" was the party's slogan at local and European elections as part of the Conservative leader's claim to have modernised his party. With a flourish and "hug a husky" photocalls, Mr Cameron promised he would head the greenest government in history. On this issue at least, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats appeared to be at one.

The appearance was deceptive. As Prime Minister, Mr Cameron has not made a single speech on the environment. Far from bonding the two parties, environmental policy is fuelling fresh and potentially explosive tensions. So far the division has not been as noisily exposed as it was over reform of the House of Lords, but the split between the two parties is much starker and potentially even more serious. At least when Nick Clegg put forward his proposals for the House of Lords, the Liberal Democrats could count on the support of Conservative ministers. On the green agenda the division is between ministers at the top of the Coalition.

First, there is the persistent speculation that David Cameron and George Osborne support a third runway at Heathrow airport, having made much of their opposition on environmental grounds before the last election. More immediately, Mr Osborne is reported to be blocking new subsidies urgently required for renewable energy. The subsidies are being proposed by the Liberal Democrats' Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, and are entirely consistent with what both parties were arguing as part of their pre-election pitches.

Mr Osborne fears that what he now regards as over-generous support for wind power and other renewable sources will deter investment in gas-fired power stations, which he believes offer businesses and consumers the prospect of lower bills in future. But he and Mr Cameron made no such argument when they were claiming to be environmental crusaders. Not surprisingly, the Chancellor has the support of more than 100 Tory MPs who signed a letter this year calling for cuts in subsidies paid to promote the "inefficient and intermittent energy" supplied by wind farms. Most Conservative MPs were never swayed by their leadership's brief and cynical embrace of green issues.

The resistance from the Treasury exposes even more vividly than the paralysis over House of Lords reform the shallow pre-election claims from David Cameron and George Osborne that they had modernised the Conservative Party. Cynically the duo seem to have seized on the issue of the environment to prove that their party had changed. The new mood music was composed to appeal in particular to Liberal Democrat voters in key marginal seats and non‑Conservative newspapers. For a time the melodious tunes cast their spell, perhaps too well, as the duo's apparently new approach was never closely scrutinised.

Over the summer Mr Cameron must decide whether he wants to be seen as a modernising leader of a coalition or a leader of a right-wing Conservative Party like his election-losing predecessors. He chose the environment as a symbol of modernisation. Let us accept his choice of policy area and conclude that, if he fails to deliver adequate subsidies for renewables and declares his support for a third runway, his modernising project has died before it came to life.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Joinery Shop Foreman

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Joinery Shop Foreman is required to join a p...

Recruitment Genius: Bench Joiner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Bench Joiner is required to join a privately...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Recruitment and Sales People wanted f...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Skilled Engineer - Electrical / Mechanical / Maintenance

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A multi-skilled engineer with a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

For the sake of the millions of girls who miss vital schooling during their periods, we must dismantle the 'menstrual taboo'

Emily Wilson Smith
 

Rick Santorum’s presidential bid isn’t funny, it’s terrifying

Sirena Bergman
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada